Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Cyling Adventure and Power Mystery: Soma 70.3 Race Report

First – I recommend the Soma 70.3 to anyone. So…there was this shrill screaming as I pedaled past the pleaton and I was left to wonder who had been run through with a spear. You see, up to this point, about half way into the first of three loops on the bike course, I had already seen three accidents, all looking pretty serious. I even saw one guy ride smack into a “road work ahead” sign; needless to say it proved a serious impediment to his forward progress.

I’m getting ahead of myself; let me return to the beginning. This past weekend was the Soma 70.3 in Tempe Arizona; an event that has become one rockin’ season ender. There were over 1200 athletes on hand, the temps were in the low 80’s and it was overcast and virtually windless all day. The course used at Soma has many similarities to the course used for IMAZ and the event begins with a rectangular swim with a deep water start in Tempe Town Lake. I felt good and was hoping for a strong finish. As I jumped into the water I discovered something that I will make sure and put at the very top of my “things to avoid at all costs during IMAZ 07” list; I splashed into the water and raked the toes of my left foot into the jagged concrete edge of the man-made Town Lake.

The upside of this incident is that I was fully submerged by the time the pain registered so nobody could hear my rather indiscrete vocalizations. My foot really hurt and I was quite satisfied not to be able to see the damage. I swam the 100 yards to the start area with everyone else and just stared fixedly ahead waiting for the start horn to blow so I would have something to focus on other than the pain in my foot. When the horn blew we were off and the thrash fest was on. My first 300 meters was intensely frustrating and I could not get going. Not only did I have trouble getting my stroke working, every tack I took landed me right behind some tugboat…with a damaged engine.

After the first 300 meters or so I finally got into a groove and started bridging gaps between myself and other swim packs. Eventually I ended up in the no-man’s-land between waves that consists of that odd mixture of really fast swimmers bridging up from later waves and running over really slow swimmers from early waves. What can I say; this seems to be my lot in the swim. My overall swim split was 42:55, a rock solid average effort for me, in a typical pool-based, non-wetsuit, workout swim that is. My average HR for the swim was 179. This is something that I can’t explain; it just seems too high for such a sluggish pace. Could it have been the foot? I don’t know.

In T-1 I got my first look at the foot. My big toe suffered the most damage with a pretty good chunk taken out of the first knuckle and slightly less damage on my second toe along with scrapes that ran up the top of my foot. I think 43 minutes in cool water staunched the bleeding so it wasn’t much of a mess and there wasn’t much swelling. Despite the injury and the grand proportions of the transition area I got out in 3:54 and hit the bike.

The bike course was a blast! Despite the fact that it was a three loop affair you had little opportunity to get bored because you constantly had to adjust to twists, turns and corkscrews. However, the course was also marked so well it was impossible to get lost The best description I have heard of it was “It kind of has three out and backs, each with its own out and back; sort of like a giant hand with 10 or 12 fingers.”

So…there was this shrill screaming as I pedaled past the pleaton and I was left to wonder who had been run through with a spear. As I passed this woman she screamed at me so loudly that I almost fell off my own bike…I mean it literally hurt my ears. “On your left!!!!!! Don’t you know how to say ON YOUR LEFT?!?!?!?! Don’t you know the RULES?!?!?!?! Now maybe she had a point but here’s the thing, there were 1200 other riders out there and we were all traveling in huge mobs and there was constantly someone flying by on your left or you were flying by someone on your right…point being…nobody was saying anything 99% of the time unless it looked like a good potential for a wreck. It was just the case that we all had to work together and allow faster riders to pass and allow slower riders room to negotiate the course. This resulted in congested areas where, when the opportunity presented itself you would have 20 or so riders pulling out to pass at once. I can’t speak for others but while I did try to avoid drafting it just wasn’t very realistic much of the time though things did seem to clear out by the time I was on my third loop.

Like I said, I had a great time on the bike but was still plagued by a lack of power. Often enough I was able to move like I wanted but whenever I hit an uphill stretch I would get dropped like a bad habit. My bike split was 2:39:23, about 9 minutes off my goal pace but a decent split none-the-less. My T2 was uneventful and included a pit stop, total time 4:07.

I was now off on the run, which consists of two loops around Tempe Town Lake with one out and back stretch that is about a quarter mile long. I covered the first two miles in close to 18 minutes and everything looked good for a fast but comfortable run. However, by the time I was approaching the third aid station near mile three my energy was beginning to flag. I felt good but again there was the issue with the power output. My heart rate was sitting at 165 but my pace was falling fast. I started hitting the Gatorade and was given a bit of a boost but just could not get back down to a nine minute mile. I covered the first loop in 1:03:32, an average 9:41 pace. The second loop, 1:23:33, a devastating 12:27 pace. Like I said, I felt good at the start of the run and felt like I made a bit of a comeback towards the end but there was a huge slump in the middle where I just couldn’t pull it together.

All in all I have to call this a good effort though it was a huge mental challenge. I covered the 70.3 in 5:55:22, which hit my goal of going sub 6 but I know I can do better if I can work out the problem of fluctuating power output. I’m thinking it had to do with nutrition as I burned 8630 calories during the race and probably did not take in enough to keep up with demands. Soma is a great race put on by a great triathlon organization. If you have a chance include this race as your next season ender.


  1. Anonymous5:27 AM

    Great report, I'm looking forward to doing it next year. Love you and your wife's blogs!

  2. Anonymous6:34 AM

    I don't remember reading anywhere a rule that says you have to say "on your left" when you pass - especially when the coast is clear. We (clydes) have the uncanny knack of being one of the last waves, yet we are typically fairly strong swimmers and bikers - so we get to blow through quite a few packs of slower older folks and women. I find that screaming "on your left" tends to startle people and create an unsafe situation as they try and dart inward, instead I just like to sneak by, and it's usually so quick that they hardley know I was even there....Soma sounds like a great season ender - I'm in Miami in a week and a half for a 70.3 - I'm ready to call it a season! Next year I'm finishing up a little earlier.....

  3. Wow, do you ever have an off season? :-) Awesome report.