Planning and racing don’t always get along
I came very confident on the work I put for Ironman Santa Rosa. Building my fitness for this race started early this year. I spent endless hours on the bike doing lots of strength work. Running done most on treadmill to avoid possible injuries. For Swimming I added sessions of Erg Trainer. Monitoring my diet and body composition to get in the best shape ever. Every detail was taken care of. No room for improvisation. Just hard work from beginning to end.
When you work hard and commit at this level, it’s inevitable to build expectations on race outcomes. I have learned from past races that although you can control your training and diet, you never can predict what’s going to happen on race day.
Training can certainly help to produce a good performance. It will definetely improve the odds of getting a solid race result, but there are so many external factors that relate to have a good or bad race, that it’s not wise to expect a particular race time or position.
It’s a hard fact of life. But it does happen. Ironman Santa Rosa was no different.
Race day began early. The Alarm woke me up at 3 am. A good breakfast, taking my usual supplements, hydrate and double check my morning clothes bag before leaving the hotel. Drive and park in downtown(a few blocks away from the finish line). Then head to the buses that would take all athletes to Lake Sonoma(40 minutes from downtown and T2). The ride was quite, all people silent. Some falling asleep, some texting families and others just praying.
We arrived around 5 am to T1 at Lake Sonoma. Transition area already full of people. All very organized. Check bike, tire pressure, bike gear and then head down to the start line. It was a long steep climb from the swim exit into T1(around 400 mt). Rolling start based on time. I located myself on the group that swims under 60 minutes. At 6:40 with no delays the gun went off and we jumped from the ramp into the water.
The first 400 mt were a bit crowed but after the first buoy I settled into pace and found my space to swim on a good pace. Finishing the first loop, out of the water and back again into the second loop. This time the course was crowded of the slower swimmers. It took a long time to put everybody in the water and one loop was not enough time to produce enough gap between the first and last swimmers. Very chaotic indeed. I had to literally stop several times and look for the best place to pass the mass of people. This went on for the whole second loop. I knew there was nothing I could do. Just focus on making no mistake and try to get out of the water quickly. 57 minutes. Not good, not bad considering the messy swim. Running uphill and quickly removing the wetsuit along the way was not a big deal with the help of the volunteers. Into the changing tent. For some reason, the organization didn’t allow to leave the bike shoes on the bike. So it was running with bike shoes all the way out.
The first 3 miles of the bike were a long steep downhill. Took it with caution and once on flat roads I started to settle into pace. After the first 10K I noticed that my legs were not responding as I expected. Tensed muscles didn’t let me pushed as hard as I wanted. The pavement started to get worse with every minute. Pot holes all over the road. Segments good, segments average and some really bad. Although the scene in the background was pretty beautiful, riding was far from being enjoyable.
Frustration started to get to me and “when the going get tough, the tough get going”. Around 90K two guys passed me and position themselves in front of me. I knew I was on drafting zone so I started to slow a bit to let them go but unfortunately, in less than a minute a judge on a motorcycle appeared and gave me a drafting penalty. With no discussion I assented with my head and knew I had to stop 5 minutes at the next penalty tent. In twelve years this was my first drafting penalty. It really got into my head but I knew I still had a long day ahead so I needed to let it go.
I did my best to keep pushing hard the rest of the bike knowing that it would be hard to gain back those 5 minutes. Before arriving to T2 my head was willing to keep fighting. If my legs felt ok, I would would not surrender.
I started the marathon with a strong pace that didn’t feel too demanding. I surprised myself when the first K went around 4 min. The plan was to run based on heart rate rather than a particular pace. The first loop of 14K went pretty well. Feeling strong and fast. No signs of fatigue. Nobody passing me and people were even encouraging me on how good I was running.
Around 21K I decided to gamble a bit and pushed harder. I was on my way to making my Personal Best Marathon and felt motivated that I was catching people in front of me. Finishing the second loop I noticed that my legs were starting to feel tired. The last 14K were going to be terrible.
I slowed down and tried to fight the temptation of walking. It was inevitable. On every aid station I walked to grab and drink fluids. One cup and the back to running. I knew that it would not be too bad as long as I stopped briefly. So I managed to keep running in between aid stations until I entered the city streets that would take me to the finish line. No more walking. A few more blocks and I would beat the demons of my tenth ironman. Red carpet, arms over my head and my name was all over the speakers. “Andrés Sauma, you’re an Ironman”
I crossed the line without knowing my time or my final position. To my surprise I broke the 10 hours and finished in 10th place on my Age Group. No too bad considering all the problems I had to go through.
I honestly expected more from my performance considering all the hard work I put coming to Santa Rosa. All I have achieved in this sport has to do with really hard work. I’m not frustrated. On the contrary, this gives me more motivation to train harder and become a much better person and athlete on the process.