(Yeah!!! I am killing it on my New Year's resolution to take more pictures, I uploaded over 100 for this post, feel free to just look at the pics if it's too long to read). Each year goes by faster then the last and I am left wishing I had more pics to remember it by...
I found out exactly why the San Juan 70.3 slogan is "Race In Paradise" & why I saw some superstar names in passed results with finish times they are capable of going much faster then on other courses. It was a fantastic event and the most fun half iron course I've ever raced! This was my favorite swim course to date, the bike is along the coastline with breathtaking ocean views, the scenic run is historic as you get to explore Old San Juan on foot which is a 465 year old neighborhood with about that many cats too! The elevation of Old San Juan reminds me of San Francisco except the temperature of an oven. This course was tougher then any half I have done before and was so unique that I can't really compare it to the others, you just have to do it to understand its difficulty & beauty. It is not wetsuit legal, it is HOT, humid, has a 1k run from the swim exit to the transition which most racers stopped to put shoes on for, it is windy, and the run is HILLY!
I signed up for this race in August to have a specific focus & race to prep for over the long MN winter & a fun vacation to dream about on sub zero snowy days. Also, hot races have always been a huge obstacle for me and I am greatly intrigued by the things I suck at. Instead I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in Nov and in a boot until Christmas, so my excitement quickly turned to panic. My motto became:
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
As I wrote my training plan each week for Puerto Rico & throughout training I kept telling myself, just get to the starting line. I could only run 3 times a week so I had to maximize every session & 2 full days off after every long run were ordered. I kept reminding myself, it is very early in the year, I want to be at the top of my game in September not March, relax, breathe, no need to rush a comeback, no need to risk any setbacks, this is not a PR course, this is not a fast course. Prepare for this race as well as you can, do your best, embrace the elements, enjoy the journey & make the vacation more important then the race! It is okay to have a slow start to the season if that means not reinjuring. Race conservative & smart!
The essential pre-race pedicure! The best softball coach I ever had constantly told us, "You have to look good to play good" & "It's not if you win or loose, but where you eat after the game." I still try to honor both those things. I got a palm tree & birds on one big toe & a bike on the other, cut 8 inches off my hair, & went blonder.
It was a LONG day of travel on Fri March 13, I took 3 different flights starting at 5:45am. Only Ann would give someone a ride to the airport at 4am! She's something else! A selfless giving sole, one of a kind.
Southwest boarding procedure is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get! This ticket had middle seat by the can written all over it!
But it was all worth it upon arriving at our resort! Welcome to Paradise!
Taking my bike to transition, one of the resort resident peacocks was hanging out to my left
Saturday afternoon ocean swim
Our resort is in the background, the first Hilton ever built outside the 50 states. This wasn't the swim course, I am right across from the finish line.
Swim exit ramp, Mom checking out the course. She said, "That looks like a long way to swim!"
Swim course, it is a point to point route but not a straight line. You start in Condado, go under the Dos Hermanos Bridge & end in San Juan
This is my swim wave, photo by Jay Guerra. LOVED swimming under the bridge with screaming spectators lining both sides!
Gunshots around 7:50am: We biked on one side of a highway closed to traffic in the San Juan district of Miramir and the other side was open to traffic. During my last 200 - 300 meters swimming, two cars headed in the opposite direction of our race fired shots at each other. They weren't shooting at racers! Both shooters were still awake from the night before and had apparently started a fight somewhere else that continued on the road. Two athletes were caught in the crossfire on the racing side of the highway, a 26 year old female from Wisconsin was shot one time in her calf and a 45 year old local male was shot 3 times in his abdominal region & a third athlete crashed their bike. Many athletes behind them were stopped and told to lie their bikes & bodies on the ground. A highway patrol car following the shooters was hit multiple times. One shooter was shot, then crashed his car and was found dead behind the wheel and the other shooter was arrested. San Juan is absolutely beautiful, I loved my time there and I felt safe my entire vacation. Hopefully this isolated incident won't effect the future participation of this spectacular event. I feel so sad that this happened to fellow triathletes and I followed the medical updates of the Wisconsin female. She wrote on the race FB page that she can't wait to return next year and finish. Both athletes are stable which is so great to hear! I've never been anywhere in the world where the local people are so proud of their country and so proud to hold a race.
I knew I was near the gunshots but wanted to know how close officially so I looked by checking the WI women's swim time. She exited the water at 7:39:55am (started in a 7:00am wave & swam 39:55). I exited the water at 7:47:03 (7:12 wave start & 35:03 swim time). I gained :38 on her in T1 & am not sure if I got any closer to her in the opening mile(s) of the bike course. I would guess I was about 5.5 to 6 minutes behind this unfortunate chaos.
The 1k run from the swim exit to transition, hundreds of competitors stopped to put shoes on for this including Sarah Haskins. I went back and forth with my decision. After seeing the amount of shoes lining the exit on race morning in no order (many the same brand as mine) I decided any time I would gain from running faster with the comfort of shoes would be lost on a blonde moment attempting finding my own pair. We ran over a variety of rough surfaces like cobblestone, I usually get a boost & a rush from pain so I am confident with my choice.
Here is a shot of the some of the shoes lined up, both sides of the swim exit, hundreds and hundreds of pairs. I think this is one of the pro women but I am not sure who.
The bike was flat but not fast. This had to do with the heat, humidity, 3 U turns, and the whipping wind which really picked up the last 20+ miles. I started with 3 of my own bottles which lasted me until mile 25 and then I started to get majorly dehydrated bc the aid stations only had wide mouth water & Gatorade plastic bottles without a sports top. They were a huge width and didn't fit in my cages and didn't have lids on so I couldn't put them down my suit. I didn't see a single sport top bottle the whole ride. I tried so hard to fill my aerobottle but the opening was so wide & the wind so strong nothing was going in. I did manage to pour 3/4 of a water into my bento box and dissolve all my salt tabs. So each aid station I would take one bottle & chug as much as I could before the final call for trash, dump the rest on my head, and toss it. I was out of hands to take more then one. I've never seen these bottles in a race before and if I see them again I will just stop my bike and refill bc I got so thirsty and there weren't very many aid stations. The bike course was lovely, I really enjoyed the view & being off my trainer in the bathroom.
I loved the run! I made my Dad run every hill the day after the race and I have run course photos from Old San Juan further down in this post. There were hundreds of cats on the course so being the animal lover that I am, I counted cats to distract from the sweltering heat. The run is the reason I biked in my bathroom. I was preparing myself for a cooker with no cloud coverage or shade & there is a portion in a national park where you run along a huge wall with no airflow or water stops, it felt exactly like my bathroom.
Finish line, crossing over the mat to the official start of the real vacation
Cooling down in the med tent
They put a bag of ice under my head and neck and rubbed more ice on me
Jumped right back in the ocean to cool off! We had the sun in full force on race day, not a cloud in the sky.
Post-race battle wound blood blister
The most random sunburn I've ever seen. Racing stripe?
Ahhh, the post-race meal! There was the best Mexican restaurant & right by the swim exit. We ate there twice! They had award winning guac, the best & biggest I have ever had & served in a dog shaped bowl with 4 sturdy legs to hold it up.
My arms were shaking holding up the bowl. They also had the biggest and most delicious burrito I've ever had with kale, brussle sports, a ton of other delicious ingredients topped with melted Chihuahua cheese which is made from cow's milk, I wasn't eating Miles & Ozzie's relatives! Swim course in the background.
The locals said it is always very windy, hence my crazy hair. We actually had to hold our wine glass if it was less then half full or it will blow over and away.
I am not sure what place I got overall or in my AG. On the internet race results it says 4th AG, on the paper results at the 70.3 Worlds sign up it said I was 3rd AG & they gave me the 2nd AG award. Guessing I was somewhere in the amateur top 10, possibly 8 or 9 & somewhere in the female top 20, possibly 17 or 18. There was great female international amateur competition! Several of the AG winners were from outside the US. Results weren't really important to me at this race so I don't mind not knowing, I came for the killer workout in paradise!
Reading in a hammock & a yoga/meditation class on the beach were perfect recovery!
Here is one run course hill that we ran twice. Dad is headed to the bottom, left of the car, it twists further left and keeps going. We took a cab & wanted to spend the day exploring Old San Juan after so unlike when I made him run Palani Hill in his running outfit the day after I did Kona, he had to run these in his street clothes.
Dad nearing the top
View from the top of the hill Dad just climbed that was on the run course. The building to the right was built in 1521. The ocean is behind.
Top of the hill, Old San Juan
3 run course cats, Old San Juan
Cat in a plant on run course
Cat under a bench
Run course cats, there are 4 in this pic but are hard to see here
"The Wall" section of the run
Run course cat
Run course cat
A cat running on the course to the left
This is the run course too. The big cobblestone climb starts behind me to my left. It is split into 4 turns. You climb out of the wall section, turn left and run the hill I am standing on, then turn left again...
and climb this steepest section, then take one more left and climb the last section where there is finally a water stop shortly after
Cat seeking shade for a snooze under a car on course
Run course elevation, I took this pic from a roof top restaurant in Old San Juan
View at sunset from our 20th floor resort suite, feet up, recovery!
San Juan sunset over the lagoon/swim course
I watched the sunset every night, I love this gorge view!
I was looking forward to the day my dad and I had planned on the Tuesday after the race more then the race itself! A 3.5 hour hike uphill through ladders, caves, rocks, & straight up waterfalls in the San Salvador Rainforest to repel 80 feet down a waterfall, hike uphill a little more, then take 5 ziplines down + a short downhill hike to the very bottom.
We climbed right up/through the waterfalls
Some parts are so steep we used rope to help pull ourselves up
This waterfall was the toughest to get up!
Repelling for the very first time, I am hooked!
This was one of the top 5 most fun days of my entire life, I want to do it again!
Crossing over the waterfalls was the hardest part, they were really strong!
Eating fresh fruit served at the bottom of the waterfall
There was a cave a short walk to the right, inside of the waterfall, you could drink right out the water in the cave, it was the best water I've ever tasted, so fresh! I was guzzling it right out of my hands.
Coming out of the cave
Starting the ladder climb
Top of the ladder
5 ziplines that got progressively longer & faster!
We had the best guides, they made our day all the more fun with their personalities!
Our guides grandma's house. They had us over for a 3 course home cooked Puerto Rican meal. Chickens, cats, dogs, & a litter of new puppies lived in their yard.
I loved this dog! He smiled!
Baby pineapples starting to grow
Authentic Puerto Rican meal. Chicken, rice, beans, plantains, corn, flan, etc.
There are about a dozen pics from our two story balcony bc I LOVED the view and would get up early to watch every sunrise & sip coffee then watch every sunset each night. And just stand outside in admiration every time I walked by at random times of the day.
The view at night. I sipped wine with my parents most nights before bed & took it in some more
Sunset, there are a bunch paddle boarders to the right passed the bridge but hard to see from the size of this pic
Sipping coffee at sunset
Each day I got Starbucks in the lobby & drank it on the balcony
The view through my floor to ceiling bathroom window, I took this through the glass
Back at the hammock, different day
One of the resort pools with a swim up bar
The giant ocean slide! My dad and I had a race: ocean swim to the slide, climb up, slide down and swim back! So fun!!!
My right foot: big toe 70.3 blood blister, rainforest spider bite on the left of ankle, frost bite on back of the ankle.
I had the most wonderful time in San Juan! I am happy with my race, just missed my sub 5 hour goal by a little over 2:30 but life is too short & way too awesome to care! So grateful for every part of this race-cation!