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Race Recap: Ironman Santa Rosa

2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run

· Racing and Training

Ironman means so much to me. It's about chasing dreams and achieving big goals. It's about endurance, and proving to myself what I'm capable of. It's about health and fitness, and a milestone in my own personal transformation of the past few years. It's about being an athlete, something that I've wanted to be since I was a kid. And it's about all the people that have supported me and helped me get to this point, because I couldn't have done this alone.

Ironman has been over 2.5 years in the making, a long series of small incremental steps.

When I first started marathon training back in 2017, Ironman wasn't even on my radar. After I completed my first marathon in October 2017, I thought for sure I wouldn't ever do that again. But then I did another one, and the idea of ultra distances first seemed possible.

In March 2017, I signed up for Ironman 70.3 Whistler despite having never done a triathlon before, and had 4 months to figure it out. I did a Sprint Tri in May on a borrowed bike and somehow placed 2nd overall. I bought my first road bike a month before Whistler, and fell twice on my first ride learning how to clip in and out. I raced 70.3 Whistler in July, and I swear I was the only one without a fancy racing kit. I got my ass kicked that day, it was 95 degrees and I underestimated how tired my legs would be after the bike. But I finished, hitting my goal of going sub-6 hours. I was hooked on triathlon.

In January of 2019, I officially registered for Ironman Santa Rosa and started my Ironman training.

Intentions

Before I even registered for Ironman Santa Rosa, I knew what I wanted the overall experience to look like... An Airbnb somewhere remote and quiet along the Russian River, a weekend with Ashley and some of my closest friends to share this experience with me. I imagined a family dinner at the Airbnb the night before where we make homemade pasta. I imagined my friends doing wine tasting in Healdsburg, and taking a momentary break from their own fun day to see me ride by. Of course, Ironman is about finishing the race, but going into race weekend, my most important intention was to enjoy the weekend and be able to share this experience with some of my favorite people. Sure, I stayed up a little too late (11pm) the night before the race, but it was okay and we were having a blast.

Intentions:

  1. Enjoy my first Ironman experience, with Ashley and some of my closest friends, in beautiful Sonoma wine country. To be present in the whole experience, before, during and after the race, and remember to enjoy the scenery.
  2. Race my race and not get caught up in others passing me or my own over-excitement. Pace myself and execute. My race day mantra was, "relax and breathe."
  3. Finish sub-12 hours, which looked like a 1:10 swim, 6:45 bike, and around a 4 hour marathon. 
The whole purpose of me setting intentions was to make sure my competitive brain didn't completely take over the whole experience. I wanted to remind myself, loud and clear, that this wasn't about the result, but rather the life-changing journey that I've been on, the personal transformation I have gone through, and being able to share it with my closest friends. But deep down, if you know me, you know that I really wanted sub-12.

The Race

Pre-Race

I wasn't that nervous going into race weekend. There are a lot of logistics, but I had done the drill once already with 70.3 Whistler. There are a lot of variables... weather was looking perfect, a nice 72 degree day... I had done a dress rehearsal a couple weeks back and felt great about my fueling plan... my bike was fresh out of the shop with a tune up and was feeling buttery. Most of all, I knew I was trained and fit, and I didn't fear the distance. I knew it would be a long tough day, but the true challenge would be going sub-12 hours. I was ready to go.

I woke up at 3:30am and made my muesli and pre-race smoothie. Ashley and I drove to Lake Sonoma, and we were able to find a good parking spot up top near transition right before the lot filled up. We were there early, no rush. I was able to go poop twice that morning, once back at the Airbnb after breakfast, and once before the swim start. Super grateful for the non-stressful start to the day, and a lesson for future races to plan and be early.

The Swim

Goal for the swim was 1:10. The swim started with the expected panic attack - heart racing, gasping for air, wetsuit strangling me, getting kicked and hit from all angles. "Relax and breathe."

It seemed like it took forever to find my rhythm, but eventually I did. I took an outside line, at the expense of maybe extending the swim course an extra 100 yards, it felt much more comfortable to have some space. It was awesome to swim under the bridge in Lake Sonoma, and I tried to enjoy the scenery as a way to stay calm and collected.

The course is a 2 loop course, and you actually exit the water in between loops, so I checked my watch at the half way mark and I was at 34 min, right on target. For the entire second loop, I passed a lot of people. When it was crowded, I moved to the outside, and when it cleared up a bit, I moved more inside. I felt strong, and I was confidently moving forward and finding the space I needed.

Official swim time: 1:09:21.

T1 was a long 9:22 for a couple reasons. There is a huge hill to climb from the swim exit to T1, and I maybe could have saved 1 minute if I ran up it, but instead elected to catch my breath and power walk up. Also, it was a bit chilly, so I took the extra time to dry off and put on arm warmers before heading out on the bike.

The Bike

Goal for the bike was 6:45. The bike started with a long, fast 3 mile decent. Within the first 10 miles of the bike I saw at least 4-5 riders with bike issues, flat tires or chains that have come off. I was immediately glad that I had gotten a flat tire kit for my bike the day before in case that happened to me, and I also knew that I had to be on high alert for bumps or potholes in the road. Around mile 15, I also saw a rider in front of me get a drafting violation. I didn't think that they really policed drafting in the middle of the age group pack where I ride, but it was a good wake up call that they are serious about enforcing the rules.

I always wondered what the protocol was for peeing on the bike, do you stop at the aid station and hit the port-o-potty or just go in your trisuit while riding haha? In the week prior, I had listened to a bunch of triathlon podcasts, and a coach explained that it's perfectly normal to pee on the bike. The first couple times, I was a little embarrassed and tried to wait till there was a gap between me and the rider behind me. I probably went pee 6 times on the bike, once per hour. The one big thing that I didn't take into consideration is that my water bottles sit on the frame right in between my legs, and if the wind is blowing a certain direction, that means I was pissing all over my bottles. Oops.

I had 2 issues on the bike. The first is that the Clifbars were not going down easily from the get go. I brought 8 of them with me on the bike, and my plan was to just go all Clifabrs. I trained with Clifbars, and I loved them in training, but for some reason I wasn't feeling them on the bike. The second issue was my gear shifting, around mile 35-40 or so, my bike started getting stuck in the small ring, and I couldn't shift back to the big ring. It was super frustrating, but I didn't really know what to do other than just keep riding, and ride cross-chain on the small ring. "Relax and breathe."

Despite the issues above, the first half of the bike was very strong and fast, clocking in at 3 hours exactly at mile 56. This meant that I could pull back quite a bit for the 2nd half of the bike, save my legs, and still easily come in well under my bike goal of 6:45.

Around the half way mark, I got my gears working again, but then around mile 80, they stopped working again and I never got them to work again. I just looked at it like a sign, the universe telling me to coast the downhills and save my legs for the run. After eating 4 of my 8 Clifbars, I couldn't eat anymore and switched to bananas from the aid station and continuing to take in liquid calories and electrolytes from the Gatorade Endurance.

Fueling on the bike looked like this - 4 Clifbars, 1.5 bananas, 2 bottles (40oz) of CarboPro, 3 bottles (60oz) of Gatorade Endurance, which is about 424g CHO, 2028 calories (65g CHO and 312 cals per hour), and 100oz of fluids total. Overall I felt good with how I fueled, I had a plan but didn't force anything and listened to my body.

Official bike time: 6:29:12.

I saw Ashley on the course twice in the first half of the course which was awesome. Then I saw my big group of friends a little bit past the halfway mark near Silver Oak Winery, all cheering with cowbells, which was so cool. But the best was seeing them right at the dismount line of the bike in front of T2. They were all there, cheering loud. I got off the bike, my legs were feeling rested and bouncy, and I was super stoked to see them! They also managed to grab this action shot of me right then, and when I look at it, I know that I was feeling good and really enjoying the experience.

The Run

I came out of T2 with about 4:10-ish to run the marathon and go sub-12.

The first 6 miles of the run I was cruising at a comfortable 8:15-8:30 pace. My heart rate was in the high 140s, low 150s, I was breathing out my nose, and running relaxed. "Relax and breathe." Everything felt good, and I thought I had sub-12 in the bag. Through mile 9, I felt strong and confident.

But at mile 10, everything changed. Everything was going great, until all of a sudden it wasn’t. I started to hit a wall. Mile 10 was a 9:30. I tried to kick it back into gear, and mile 11 was an 8:50, but that didn't last. I was hurting, and slowing.

My half marathon split was 1:52, and the math said I just needed to run another 13.1 in 2:15 to hit the goal, 10 min miles. But the check engine light was on. I was fighting best I could, but my legs just weren’t there anymore.

Mile 13 was a 10:09, and again I tried to kick it back into gear and mile 14 was a 9:20. But I couldn't sustain that. Miles 15-17 were 10:25s, and I started to walk more than just the aid stations to try and get my legs back. The legs never came back, and the math calculations looked worse and worse. Miles 18-20 were 11:00s, and at this point, sub-12 was painfully slipping away.

By mile 20, I was completely drained, crushed, spent. My watch died around this time, which was a blessing because at that point I was done crunching the numbers and obsessing about my pace. It was tough to let go of sub-12, to accept that I had failed, but I had to. I accepted it, I let it go, and I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Miles 21 and 22 were 12:30s, miles 23 and 24 were 14:00s, so slow and painful. I was picking out points on the course that I would try and run to so I could walk again.

“This is what Ironman is all about,” I kept reminding myself as I painfully shuffled along, “and tonight I’ll be laying in bed, an Ironman.” Those last 6 miles felt like an eternity, but I finally made it to the finish. It was such a relief to come off the river trail and head through downtown Santa Rosa towards the finish line. It was such a relief to not have to loop around again, but instead continue straight for the finish.

I had imagined the finish line a million times in my head. The red carpet, the cheering fans, giving high fives down the finish chute while the announcer says "Jarric Ramos, you are an Ironman." At that point, I could have cared less what the clock said at the top of the finish arch. All I wanted was to see my friends. And they were all there, cheering loud, hands out ready for the high fives. One of the best moments of my life.

Official times:

  • Swim - 1:09:21
  • T1 - 9:22
  • Bike - 6:29:12
  • T2 - 5:57
  • Run - 4:27:35
  • Total - 12:21:25

Thank You!

It meant so much to me to feel all the love and support this past weekend at Ironman Santa Rosa. To my friends up in Wine Country with me, and all the friends and family following along on the Ironman app, social media, and Strava, THANK YOU. Every high five, cheer, and message was a jolt of energy, and knowing that you all were rooting for me helped me through the day. This is such a special accomplishment in my life, and made even more special that I got to share it with all of you.

It felt like I had a badass team out there, from the family dinner the night before the race, to the cheers and cowbells out on the course, to the surprise gift after I crossed the finish line that made me tear up… it was such an epic weekend.

And of course, to my #1 supporter, Ashley, thank you for supporting me when I want to pursue big goals, take up time consuming hobbies, go on vacations that revolve around racing, for waking up at 330am to drive me to the start line, navigating road closures to see me on the course 7 times, and being the first one to hug me and say you’re proud of me when I cross the finish line. I love you.

I love you all!

Post-Race Thoughts

  • Ironman was everything I hoped for, and more. 
  • I knew the back half marathon would be the toughest part of the race, but I didn't really know until I was in it how tough it really was. In retrospect, I'm glad that it kicked my ass. I got my money's worth here, and I have mad respect for anyone who has ever done an Ironman.
  • I read a Cam Hanes quote today. "Man, is there anything better than giving a full effort and being spent?" Crossing the finish line, completely spent, 21 minutes behind my goal time, is something I'm so proud of.
  • I'm very happy with my race execution. My fueling was great. My pacing was spot on with my plan, until the end of course. I was worried that I would go out too hard and over-race, but I didn't. I stayed calm (relax and breathe), and ran my race.
  • If there was anything to change, it wouldn't be about anything that had to do with race day, but rather, my training. I say this with a grain of salt because I know my personality is to push myself to do things before I'm "ready" and this is only my first Ironman. But more on my training below...
  • I will be back in 2020 for my 2nd Ironman, and I am determined to go sub-12!

Ironman Training

I had 4 weeks of foundation, 12 weeks of hard training ramping up to 12-14 hour weeks, and 3 weeks of taper. This was enough to confidently finish the race, but not enough to hit my goal of sub 12 hours. Now that Ironman is in the books, I was obviously under trained.

My biggest mistake, I think, was not preparing myself for the fatigue at the end of the marathon. I should have done some brick workouts with longer runs off the bike. I did two 100+3 bricks, a 62+6, two 55+6, and a 35+8. But I never went long off the bike. This next time around, I will maybe do a 40+20, a 60+15, an 80+13. I'll also do long bikes and long runs on back to back days, to simulate the fatigue, maybe something like a 100 bike on Saturday and 20 run on Sunday.

Besides for that, I'm just excited for another year of training and racing before my next Ironman. I haven't even been biking for a full year yet, and I'm excited to further develop my biking legs. I'm also excited to add more variety to my swimming and biking workouts. So far, I've only had one speed which is "comfortable hard," and I think by doing more interval work in the water and on the bike, and hill workouts on the bike, I can improve.

Training Totals from January 1 - May 11 Race Day

402 running miles

1336 cycling miles

16000 swimming yards (9 miles)

Total of 1750 miles

57 hours of running

78 hours of cycling

7.5 hours of swimming

142.5 total hours

January I averaged about 4 hours of training per week, and I was just trying to lay some foundation and work around a couple snowboarding trips and a long weekend in Sayulita for a wedding.

February is where I started to ramp up. I was in Jackson Hole WY for the first week of Feb, but when I got back I put in an 11 hour week, followed by a 16 hour week which ended up being my biggest week of training. That week was also my first time riding a century, and I did a short 3 mile run off the bike and felt pretty solid all considering.

The 6 weeks from the beginning of March till the 2nd week of April I was in full ramp, shooting for 12-14 hours per week, except for a snowboarding trip right in the middle which served as a recovery week. I also started swimming again in the 2nd week of March, as the ocean was starting to warm up a little bit to the mid-to-high 50s at least. The 2nd week of April was my second biggest week, 14 hours, and my 2nd century brick.

But the 4th week of April is where things got a little weird, and in retrospect might have approached it differently. I had Stagecoach that weekend, and planned for a light week leading up and 3 complete days off while at the festival. But what I didn't plan for is feeling so rundown after the 3-day festival and needing an additional couple days to recover, and on top of that I cut the bottom of my foot open which took time to heal. I also took my bike to the shop for a pre-race tune up right after Stagecoach, and due to delayed parts, I ended up not getting my bike back until 1.5 weeks later, the same morning I was planning to start driving up north. I ended up having about a 3 week taper which felt like too long considering I only really trained hard for 3 months. But all in all, I'd rather go into a race over-rested than over-trained, so it is what it is.

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