San Juan ITU Pan Am Cup – Swimming Faster than Ever

December 8th, 2013

Hotel view for a week

San Juan, Puerto Rico was the location of my third ITU race after Clermont,FL and Sarasota,FL back in March. Heather and I had a wonderful accommodation on the 19th floor of the Caribe Hilton hotel. Our balcony overlooked a beautiful lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean and it never got old. Food and travel around the island were very expensive, so we decided to walk most of the time and hit up the grocery store for supply as soon as we arrived on Thursday. The race was not until Sunday so we spent most of our time swimming in the lagoon, lying out by the beach, watching TV, and walking around Old San Juan. Unfortunately at the time, all of the national parks, including the rain forest were closed due to the “government shutdown.”

Our fun was affected by the "government shutdown"

The race was located south of Old San Juan.  The swim was two laps with a pontoon start. My goal was to keep contact with main swim pack as long as possible.  By the end of the first lap, I was still in the pack.  I was even able to react to a small gap beginning to open up in front of me. As soon as I saw this, I decided to start sprinting. Going into the turn to go back out for the second lap, I had closed the gap. During the second lap, the main pack ended up splitting in half and had two distinct groups. I was at the very end of the second pack and had to work hard to stay there. Exiting the swim, I was still with that pack. I did it!  After so many years of being last out of the water, I was finally with a group headed out on to the bike.

Swim Start

Unfortunately I had a small hiccup exiting transition. As I was jumping on my bike, I missed one of my shoes that were already mounted to the pedal.  As the crank rotated, the shoe caught the ground and halted me immediately.  It only took few seconds to get going again, but I had to continue from a standstill without a running start. Also, since I was at the end of the swim pack, making that same bike pack was critical if I wanted that solid swim to be worth something.

Trying to keep contact with the bike group

After I got going again, I soon found that my legs were not responding. I was slipping from the pack more and more with each lap. By the 4th of 8 total laps, I was in no man’s land.  I continued to fall farther behind and had to worry about being pulled of the course since the bike and run course shared a similar path. If anyone was still on the bike course when the runners got to a certain point, bikers cause a safety hazard to the runners and are not allowed to continue.  It was a close call. A referee even waved at me and another biker as we were going back into transition He was saying that we could not continue.  That did not seem right, since the runner had not made it to that cut off point.  So we just kept on going.

Navigating through the Cobbles

More misfortune soon followed; it started raining with only 1k on the bike to go. Going down a small hill into a corner, I went down. Luckily, I was able to unclip, let my bike go and slide on my bike shoes like they were roller skates.  After I got back on my bike and I had to navigate my way over two cobblestone sections.  I had never ridden on wet cobblestone, so I almost wiped out as I went over the first section.  I had one more section and it was on an uphill with a turn.  Once I went into the turn, the bike started to wobble and I eventually had to unclip to prevent another fall. To make maters worse, I was only half way through the cobble section and there was no way I could clip back in and start pedaling, since it was just too slippery.  I immediately decided to get off my bike and run the rest of the way. I was really nervous too, since the first runner was now coming back into transition and was not too far behind. That last 1k of the bike had caused me to really slow down.

Making it through the run

It was only 300 meters to transition, but running with a bike is definitely not fun.  As I got 100 meters closer, I heard the crowd and knew the first runner was coming around the corner. I just ran as fast as I could. By the time I got to transition and racked my bike, the first runner whizzed by me.  I hadn’t been lapped out but still had the 10k run to go.  Once I finished, Heather hugged me and gave me all her support, including some ice after such a hot run.

Enjoying each other's company

Not the finish I was looking for, but all was not lost. I still had a great swim. I worked hard this year, putting time on my Vasa Ergometer and lots of high quality, focused practices in the pool.  I just did not have a good bike, and that happens.  My next race was the Austin Ironman 70.3.

Hanging out at Old San Juan