#RaceInParadise, that’s what they call it. And it’s beautiful.

It was nearly two years ago now when I dropped the idea to my friend Naidymar that she should do the Half Ironman in Puerto Rico. “You should sign up! Go race in your home country! I’ll do it with you!”
That was basically the initial conversation. And it led to a race.

 

There were two reasons for me pushing to do this event:

  1. I had seen a bunch of the videos and marketing for IronmanPR online. The course looked absolutely gorgeous, and tough. And I was already pretty much sold on it.
  2. Naidymar is Puerto Rican. She is a dear friend. And I truly believed she was tough enough to train up to complete a half even though she had JUST got into cycling.

Looking back in a group chat we have with several friends that was the first time I actually said something. The original thought was to do a relay, but that quickly changed to each doing our own race. Things slowly progressed from there.

So when I got a text message from her saying “I’m signed up!” my reaction was both “Hell yes!” and “Shit! Now I gotta figure out logistics for that race…”

Travel and getting around to races:

Some of you know me personally and know that I do quite a bit of races depending on the season/year. And while most of them are reasonably easy to get to, others have been a bit more complicated and involved a lot of travel details to figure out.

I was going to need to figure out Flight, Bike Shipping, and Hotel.
I already knew that I was looking at probably $1,500 minimum. Oh, plus race entry. So around another $400 for that.

So I signed up for a new credit card!

What?!

I decided that the “best” way for me to cover my trip was to sign up for a new travel card. Specifically the Chase Platinum Reserve. They have a deal going where if you spent $4,000 in the first 90 days you would be rewarded 100,000 points. And if you use those point in the Chase portal for travel, they would count as 150,000 points, or $1,500.

I’m a photographer. I’d been looking at upgrading one of my cameras for work. That was going to cost me $3,500. So this was almost a no brainer when I looked over the math many, many times.
Note: I travel a fair amount. Not as much as I used to, but enough for me to justify the annual fee of the Chase Platinum Reserve. It’s $450 a year with $300 instant travel reimbursement. It also reimburses your TSA Pre fee every two years. There are several other perks like Priority Pass, 3x points on dollars spent on food/travel, etc.
Basically, this card worked for me. But may not be a smart move for everyone. I like numbers and I’m good at budgets, so I was not worried about anything with this plan.

So I signed up for the card. Was immediately approved. (For those data geeks with churning: 0/24, 753)
I paid the annual fee, bought my new camera, made a few other charges and I had 104,000 points to use.

 

At this point I was back to a numbers game to calculate out the best use of my points for hotel and airfare.
I had pretty much decided prior to signing up for the CSR to stay the host hotel, the Caribe Hilton San Juan.

I had traveled cross-country to IRONMAN Florida two years back, and saw the benefits/ease of staying at the host hotel during that race. I stayed elsewhere, but could see that being “right there” was much easier and quicker for most things involving check-in, meetings, and race morning.
Since I would be traveling to a different country I decided “I’ll stay at the host hotel, pay the money, and not have to deal with an airBNB or place that is too far out of the way, or in an area I’m not familiar with”.
But I did have to remind myself many times “you got the CSR for the points to use for this trip”. There were several times I looked at booking everything on my own and saving my 104k points for something else. Like a trip to Asia.

COST

Entry: $405

I signed up in November, last year. That’s the easy part. Paying an entry fee is always quick. And simple enough to do from a cell phone if you needed to.

Bike Travel:

You have a few options when you have to bring your bike to an event. Most common I think is to box it up and bring it on the plane. Or you can use a service like TriBike Transport (which I’ve used in the past and they’re great.) Lastly you can sometimes rent a bike at the location.
Me? I bring my bike.

So I had two choices: Box it up, or Ship.
TriBike Transport was going to cost me $500 and I would still have to disassemble my bike and drop it off for TBT to ship. So I was basically paying them to ship the bike, rebuild it for me, and then tear it down and repack it and ship home.
Or I could do all that myself, bring it on the plane, and pay maybe half of that… max.

So this is where I had to decide which airline I was flying.

Ultimately I decided to fly JetBlue.
Their baggage fee was $25 for the 1st bag, $35 for the 2nd bag, and then an additional fee of $50 for the bike on top of the second-bag-fee.
Roundtrip Bike Cost: $220 on JetBlue.
Now I thought I had purchased a Blue Plus ticket from the Chase portal, which would have waved the $25 first-bag fee and saved me a bit of money each way. But while my flight to Puerto Rico only charged me $75 total on luggage/bike, my flight home charged me $110.
Actual bike travel cost: $185


Hotel and Flight

I had already decided on JetBlue and the Caribe Hilton at this point. And that meant that now I had to determine actual travel dates I wanted to go.
So after looking at my calendar, travel times, etc. I decided to over-night my trip to Puerto Rico, and leave two days after the race.

Why over night? Because a red-eye/over-night flight was the same price. BUT it put me in Puerto Rico in the afternoon. If I was going to have to pay for a hotel, I didn’t want to pay for a hotel room after arriving close to midnight.

Booking everything through Chase was simple. The plane ticket prices were basically the same amount. The difference was that Chase booked a room at normal prices. Versus the Ironman event discount rate on rooms.
The difference here was about $400. That’s a significant amount, but I again reminded myself that I was using points. Points were the plan. Points were covering this trip, John.

The Caribe Hilton booking through the Chase portal was $1,304.12 for the four nights.
My ticket on JetBlue totaled out to $477.82

My 104,869 Chase points covered $1,573.05!
So, after many double checks on dates, double checking with JetBlue directly to confirm their baggage and bike policies, I booked my hotel and flight:

Hotel/Flight cost at booking time: $208.89*

*Note*: Turned out that the resort tax/fee was not included in this final cost online. It was paid for after check out. I didn’t expect that expense, so it was a bit of a surprise.
Upon check out I was emailed my final bill that included the “Resort Fee” – the fee that resorts add in after the fact to the final price you pay. That was $178.40
Hotel/Flight cost after final resort fee included: $387.29

So that put me at a total cost of $572.29 for travel and board – with my bike, at the fancy host hotel, and with an extra day to relax/sight-see. And that’s pretty good when I consider that saved 75% of that cost.
(I understand I could have done this race cheaper and on a budget, but that wasn’t exactly the goal)

 


Traveling to Puerto Rico

 

I took JetBlue out of the International terminal in SFO. I like the International Terminal. It’s nice.
I made the mistake of ultilizing one of the porters to help me with my bike box. It was a slow night there and I thought “great, I’ll help him out with a tip and won’t have to uncomfortably one-arm my bike box (which I’m entirely capable of doing) to the ticket counter”.
Well, after dropping me at the ticket counter and after making sure her got his tip he walked off! Seriously. The lady said that I had to take my box to oversize check-in (which I’m sure the porter knows). But after saying “wait! I have to go to oversize” and turning back to make sure the lady was done giving me all my paperwork, the guy walked away as soon as I wasn’t looking.
Even the JetBlue rep was shocked and said “Did he just ignore you and walk away?!”
Yes. Yes he did. Jerk.

 

My flight was great. I got some sleep in during the 5 hour trip to JFK.

Once at JFK I had somewhere around 2.5 hours to kill. I got breakfast at Starbucks – which cost me $5 more than normal when I order the exact same thing.
And then I found my gate. JetBlue had WiFi in that terminal so I was able to sit down and get a bunch of writing done that I had been trying to finish for a week. I actually finished assembling and writing my Princess 2017 Race Report, the one here on my blog before this report.

My second flight was also long, but I was excited to be arriving in Puerto Rico.. so I was patient.
I tend to use plane flights to organize my cell phone – I’m sure you can understand how many files and photos I have on all my devices.


Arrival and Getting to the Caribe Hilton

The fun part of race weekends is seeing everyone with their gear.

You can pick out a small majority of triathletes based on physical build. I tend to fit that “look”… Tall, thin, lean. Haha.
But we’re also dorks who wear some form of branded or logo’d clothing/etc that says one of the races we’ve done. I had my Lake Tahoe Ironman sweater tied to my backpack after wearing it on the flight.
In baggage claim I ended up chatting with a few other athletes as we all waited for our bikes.

This is a good time to suddenly make new friends. No seriously. Find out who’s going to your hotel.

Taxi trip: $24

So, make some quick friends that are also going to your hotel. It seems to be somewhat of a fixed rate for hotel travel. I paid $24 plus tip for just myself, bag, bike box, backpack. My friend Naidymar and her family paid $26 plus tip for five people, bike box, and baggage for everyone to the same hotel.


Check In, Athlete Briefing, and Expo

 

The Athlete meeting (English) was at 10a.
So I got up, grabbed Starbucks because there is literally one right there in the lobby at the Hilton, and walked around a bit to pass the time. I also walked around outside to check out the wildlife that lives at the resort.

The Athlete Briefing itself was great. The host and announcer for Ironman PR was the one who led the briefing. He went through all the details with everyone and put up with some pretty lazy questions. People asking “how many miles til the turnaround” or “Where are the water stops on the run course”.
Honestly guys… read the map. One person who asked a question like this was in the front row literally 6 feet away from a giant map that showed the answer to her question!!! People just don’t want to do research for themselves!

Check In.

Going through the Check In process was easy.

The older woman who checked my ID noticed my birthday was early that week and wished me Happy Birthday. I actually traveled on my birthday through airports, hotels, etc and had to show my ID several times. No one noticed that day.

The Check In was quick, in a small area across from the Athlete Briefing. They moved you through pretty easily.
The dude doing numbers on the swim caps was doing a pretty bad job though. My numbers don’t even look like my number. I was concerned that I would have zero images from the swim exit.

 

Expo.

The Expo is on the small side for those of us a bit more used to full-iron races. But there was a ton of stuff there. Honestly they needed a larger space. The store was packed with people.
Ironman also had a ton of stuff there on clearance sale – which was awesome cuz I was curious if there was going to be any sales. Haha!

I picked up a tank top for Casey for $10, a 140.6 shirt for my Mom for $10 (she recently did IMAZ), a tank for me for $10 (which turned out to be smaller than I thought, bummer) and a few other things like an event name-shirt and glass.

Later that afternoon Naidymar and I went on a short bike ride just to make sure our bikes were good to go.
We followed that up with a short swim in the lagoon there at the Hilton.
Naidymar needed a few adjustments to her derailer. I needed my chain oiled. So we stopped by the expo once more where they had free bike service – you tip the guy of course. Honestly, that dude needed a sign in both English and Spanish that said “Service complimentary but tips appreciated”. He prob would have easily made more money.

After that we walked the bikes over to Check In. Turns out that stadium in only about two blocks away. It’s always so hard to tell on the maps online.
This process is always straight forward. Find your rack. Hang your bike on the sticker side.
I also chose to deflate my tires because I didn’t feel like risking fully inflated tires in the Puerto Rico heat and sun all day. You just never know.

Dinner

Finding and figuring out food is always tricky. But we found out that there essentially a “food court” nextdoor to the Hilton. It’s a collection of small restaurants with an open seating design. So everyone in your party can get a dish they like from paella to ramen through pizza and rotisserie chicken.
I opted for chicken to play it safe before the race the next morning.

Afterward we headed back to the hotel. My goal was to be in bed by 10pm. I think I hit my pillow at 10:15 – even if it did take me a little while to fall asleep afterward.

 


RACE DAY

 

Pre-Race

Up at 450am. Showered. Dressed. Sunblocked up. Tried to drink my electrolyte mix – which is always horrible. Made my oatmeal with the coffee maker in my room and headed downstairs to get to T2 and drop gear at my bike.

It was about 73 degrees out. Already felt a bit humid. And there were a ton of people out and about.
Casey and I walked over to T2 and I went in to prep my bike and transition area for later that day. I chatted with a couple of the people around as we set up our things. I saw that I had a message from Naidymar and as I tried to call her back decided to look over at her bike. She was there getting ready.
I walked over to see how she was feeling as she prepped her things. I pumped her tires for her and then went to do the same with my bike. As I tried to pump my tires my inexpensive pump started to struggle. Uh oh.
I was able to get my tires inflated to 110psi, which I wanted. Another athlete asked to use my pump. I warned him it wasn’t working too great but he could try. He managed to get his inflated, too, but that might be the last of this bike pump.

After making sure my bike was set Naidymar and I walked out, found her family as well as Casey and we made our way to the Swim start

 

The map above is from the Athlete Guide. But you can see Transition in the top left, and the walk across the bridge to the swim start.
The walk over to the Condado passes by the Caribe. So now is a great time to run back up to your room and drop off your bike pump if you need to. Or, use an actual bathroom if you suddenly need to do so.

Arriving at the waterfront the place was packed with athletes, family and spectators. Music was blasting and people were in a great mood.
It’s hard not to love a race start. The energy and excitement really pulls you into it all.

 

As we waited for the race start time to get closer I tried to find a location to possibly get a new swim cap. It was late the night before that I realized how terrible a job the number-guy did on my cap. But, as of this writing and checking FinisherPix there are actually quite a few decent shots of me. So I guess it still worked out.

We listened to the National Anthems (they play both Puerto Rico and US versions).


While waiting we also go a selfie with the host! Which is awesome cuz he was such a great guy all weekend and would be announcing the names during the race at the finish line.

It was me, Casey, Ben, and Naidymar’s mom there to see Naidymar off as she started her race day.
I headed over to join the Orange group when I saw them lining up. As I was standing there I was thinking “These guys are much older than me” and looked around for age markings… It was definitely the 50-54 Men I was with. But I saw several guys my age, too. As we passed through the arch and were “on deck” to get in the water a guy tapped my shoulder. “How old are you?” he said. And then went on to point out that I’m in the wrong group and there are actually two Orange groups. So that was a bit of a close call for me. I laughed if off and waited another 15 minutes or so for my group to start.


Swim

Projected Time: 47 min
“Good day” time: 45 min (this is a possible target if I compete strong and can maintain energy throughout the race)
Actual official clock time: 43:20

 

For the swim I had a projected/planned time of 47 minutes.
I honestly have barely been doing any swim training leading up to this race. My schedule leading up to IM703PR was just so hectic. I only swam three times in the 7 weeks leading up to the race. Ha! I did one open water swim in the last month in icy waters with my full wetsuit and held a 1:55/100 pace. So my target time was based around that.

This was a no-wetsuit swim, as it pretty much always is. During the Athlete Briefing we were told that the water temperature reading on Saturday before the race was 82 degrees in the lagoon. Quite warm.
So everyone was of course simply in tri-suits for the day.

It was a water start. And there were people in each group that elected to start where you could stand and run the first 15-20 feet or so and then get in the water. I honestly found this a bit silly. But it’s allowed, so that would be considered strategy I suppose.

Slapping feet and colliding with everyone

The reality of the swim is you bump into people. You just roll with it. And this race seemed more crowded than others I’ve done because most races I’ve done are land starts and not water starts now that I think about it.

As I tried to get into a rhythm I did my best to sight and figure out my direction. Turned out I was probably 20 ft outside the markers pretty much the whole race except the turns. But this gave me a bit more space to not be running into people during the swim.
A few hundred yards in I realized it was raining. So as I would turn to breath I could feel the rain on my face and see the clouds and hotel skyline to my left.

My lines were good the first half, as were my turns. A few corrections on the back half of the swim. And one point toward the end where my reads a harder correction than I remember doing.
During the swim I also paced briefly with a guy wearing the same tri suit as mine. Woo! Lookin good, bro!

Toward the end of the swim you cross under the bridge – and this is where the water gets much more shallow and you can start to see the bottom. The depth is only about 3 feet at the exit. You also feel the colder water that’s coming in from the ocean
You come up a ramp that seems as though it’s specially made for this event. It was put in place the day before. The ramp is covered with that honeycomb no-slip rubber matting and there are people lining both sides with one arm on the railing and one arm out to help you. So instead of grabbing onto a railing at any point, you are reaching from person to person, arm to arm, and they’re helping pull you up the steep ramp out of the water.

As you step down onto the pavement you now have close to a half mile jog (or walk) ahead of you.

Many people left sneakers or sandals here to slip on. And if you watch video footage of past races, even the pro female was wearing shoes at this point. To run to T1.

I opted to go barefoot and just watched where I ran.
I passed Shelly, Naidymar’s sister, who was there recording/taking photos at the exit. I tried to keep a decent jog pace, but wasn’t in a hurry. I was trying to catch my breath and determine how much energy that swim cost me. I knew I was already a bit ahead of my target times by several minutes but it didn’t feel like I overexerted myself.


T1

Transition I took my time and methodically dried my arms/face, rinsed them with water from a bottle I left that morning, then sprayed on sunblock.
I dried my feet and put on my socks, shoes, and ate a gel as I packed my nutrition into my pockets and was going over the few things there making sure I wasn’t missing a step. I applied more sunblock, plut on my helmet, and un racked my bike.
I had no reason to rush so I made sure I wasn’t missing anything.

I started to jog toward the exit. There were some young kids that were helping and yelling the numbers to someone who was taking notes. TRECE NOVENTA!

As I approached the “mount” line the two men in front of me literally just stopped right there. They didn’t look around. Just came to a complete stop with their bike.
My pedal hit the guys leg. I said sorry and excuse me and passed him and moved off to the side out of the way to mount my bike. As I got on my bike I thought “That’s why you don’t stop in the middle… I could have easily nailed him with my gearing and cut his leg purely by accident”.

I mounted my bike and started on my way. Another guy just ahead of me stopped in the chute suddenly without warning.
Gotta love races. No one is careful about others even though their own safety is directly at stake.


Bike

Projected Time: 3 hours
“Good Day” time: 2:45
Actual official clock time: 2:47:52

 

The bike was a mostly flat course, as we were told. The climbing is all right at the start through overpasses to get out of San Juan and out to the mainland part of Puerto Rico.
The start of the race is lined with tons of people there supporting the althetes and cheering. Plenty of police support for the closed roads.

You actually get dumped onto the highway for part of the course. And there are full road closures so you’re safe from traffic.

We had a cloud cover and only a slight breeze at this point so I knew I was going to be able to do a fast ride. My problem is that it’s really easy for me to push too hard on the bike and burn out my legs.

I had my Garmin 810 mounted and running in front of me, and my Garmain 920 on my wrist also running to track my entire day.
So I watched my heart rate on my wrist, and all my other data on the 810 on my aero bars. I was using a different HRM that day that wasn’t paired to the 810. Whoops!

It had rained the night before so during the first couple miles I was fighting with my aerobars bottle that kept slipping as I rolled over any bumps. I finally ended up sitting up and using both hands to really tighten down the straps. It didn’t move after that.

The course takes you along the ocean for a large part of the ride. And there is still a lot of great support out in these areas. The police had roads blocked for the event. And there are families and people sitting on the side of the road cheering and waving you on.

As I approached the first water stop I slowed down. I purposely did not bring a second bottle since I intended to use the water stops on the course.
The bottles provided were 20oz Dasani water bottles with the cap already taken off. So it was surprisingly convenient to use. No cap meant it was easy to squeeze the bottle and drink from. And dropping into the bottle cage on my bike frame it fit fine. Plus with the heat you could easily shake the bottle to throw some water on your back to cool down when needed.

During the ride I tried to remember to look over and enjoy the course and views. The oceans were beautiful and we were basically riding just above the beach as the the beaches in that area were right off the highway.
I tried to wave to the police that were blocking roads as I passed.
And I also tried to keep an eye out for Naidymar. I figured I’d pass her on the bike, just no idea where I would pass her.

As you get out into the more rural parts of the ride the thing you have to keep an eye out for on the road is the occasional roadkill. But it’s not squirrels or something you might be used to… like a raccoon or opossum. It’s iguanas.

The bike course has an out and back “loop” in it that you do. But the entire middle 40 miles of the race is basically flat. So it’s a fast two loop section. The “loop” is on the same road though, so you’re only going from on side/direction to the other. So, again, it’s an out-and-back.

The majority of my ride was uneventful. But that’s good.

There was some really rough road around mile 13 and 31 or so.. which is the same section you cross twice. Most everyone slowed a bit here because it would shake your bike so hard you might drop something.

As sharp an eye as I tried to keep for Naidymar I didn’t see her on the bike. But I passed her at some point. I would have liked to have said hi and wished her well when I passed though. I was curious how her race was going. It wouldn’t be until halfway through the run that our paths crossed again.

As hour Two approached on the bike I was closing in on 42 miles.
At 2:00:28 I hit 42 miles – a 21mph average that I was incredibly pleased with.

The benefit of the cloud cover and slightttt cool breeze were contributing factors in keeping me from overheating and overexerting my legs.
But as mile 48 approached and 20 minutes had gone by my pace had dropped to 18mph. I was starting to feel the race in my legs and I knew I had pushed too hard at some point I just didn’t know where.

 

Turns out there were some points mid race that I pushed a little too hard. This could easily be me chasing numbers – I have a bad habit of doing that on the bike. But these are also somewhat near the turn arounds. So I could have also been trying to get around people and put myself in a position of less traffic approaching turn arounds and areas that the road narrows. I also would stand on my pedals and push back up to my faster pace after the turns. But overall my target of “heart rate in the 150’s and cadence around 90ish” was a good goal and I stuck to it.

Where I screwed up was my nutrition.
The fact that we had a cloud cover meant that while I drank plenty of water, I didn’t consume really any of my electrolytes. I ate a Cliff bar around mile 35 or something. I had half a sleeve of Cliff Blox also. But I didn’t use my Scratch electrolyte mix that I brought for my ride and would later need in me during the run. I certainly ended up paying for that. And I knew this as I was approaching the bike finish around mile 50 or so and could start feel the ride in my legs for the first time all day.

Re-entering San Juan the streets were still lined with people cheering you on. Navigating back to the Bike In was a little tricky as things became really narrow and there were other riders around.

There were a couple sharp turns and some winding paths coming back in.

I got to the dismount line, hit my Garmin (both of them) after unclipping, and started to jog in for T2.


Run

Projected Time: 2-2:30
“Good Day” Time: 2:00 or less
Actual official clock time: 2:36:06

The hardest most brutal half marathon I have ever done.. but it didn’t start that way.

 

In T2 I took my time getting my bike racked and putting on my running shoes. This was my first pair of HOKA’s that weren’t speed laces so I actually had to tie them. Haha!

I put on even more sunblock (which still didn’t prove to be enough) drank more water, ate another gel since I could feel my legs wanting to cramp, grabbed my bib for the run and started out on my way.
I attempted to go use the bathrooms before the run but quickly realized getting my tri suit off/on would be way too difficult and decided that I didn’t have to pee bad enough for the hassle to be worth it. Hahaha!

As I started jogging out of T2, I hit my watch and tried to gauge how I was feeling going into this remaining half marathon.

I actually felt really good. I approached Casey and Ben on the sidelines and smiled as they cheered and took photos. I nearly said outloud “feeling good” but for some reason didn’t mention it to them.

On the run course you hit a water stop just a few hundred yards in. There were girls with hug buckets of ice that were taking scoops and dumping them into peoples shirts.
I remembered the videos about Puerto Rico saying to ultilize the ice on the course to keep your core cool – and that sounded like a great idea. I moved over, stopped, and held open the top of my tri suit for ice.
They dumped a huge scoop that gathered and sat right in the middle of my chest right at my heart monitor. It was both freezing and refreshing – and then you felt pretty much nothing as your body balanced out the heat and cold. But knowing that I had a huge pile of ice on my chest as I went into the race was a bit of a relief at at that moment since it was only getting hotter that day.

After this chute – the same one you cycle into from your ride and run during the run course turnaround – you take a right onto an overpass.

Now I wasn’t planning to try and set any personal records here and my legs were right at that point where they wanted to cramp. So I walked up the overpass. As soon as it flattened out I started jogging. My pace initially was my normal 7:55/mile jogging pace. And I knew that would be too quick, and tried to slow a little bit.

As I approached mile 3 (and was finishing mile 2) my pace had slowed to a more reasonable 9:30-10:00 per mile average, and this was feeling a little more doable for me I thought.

Then my legs had other plans.

I’m not entirely sure what set it off. The heat. The ups and downs of the course. But I also knew that my lack of enough nutrition on the bike was about to bite me in the ass.
I grabbed Gatorade at the first stop that I could. It helped instantly and my cramps went away in my legs – but only for a minute.
When they tightened up again I swung out to the side to stretch. Kicked my legs back to stretch my quads and my hamstrings immediately cramped and started screaming at me.

Well, shit.

I had reached that point where I couldn’t stretch too much one way or the other because my leg just simply wanted to cramp up. I knew I was screwed and would just have to do the best I could during the remainder of the race.

So the rest of the 11 miles I was dealing with screaming legs that burned. I stopped multiple times to massage out my quads which were bothering me the most.
I grabbed a banana-half two different times during the run, as well as Gatorade and plenty more water to stay hydrated. I did everything I could to keep my legs from locking up or hurting too badly. But I did a lot of walking. And that was disappointing to me.

As I split my time between walking the uphills and jogging all the flats that I could I made sure to still enjoy the run course.

Now let’s talk about the uphills/downhills for a minute..

If you read the Athlete guide you see this:

But what you EASILY miss is the arrows at the bottom pointing out that you do this profile FOUR times…

So your run is ACTUALLY like this:

See that?! REMEMBER THAT. This run is no joke.

Anywayyyy.. The support by the locals was amazing.

The streets were lined with support and people cheering and playing music and dancing.
People were cheering you on in both English and Spanish. I could understand certain things in Spanish people were yelling and would laugh, which to the spectators meant I spoke Spanish and they’d cheer for me in Spanish.

It was great.

The kids that were managing the aid stations were awesome and super high energy.

And the views on the run were awesome. You run along part of the coast out to Old San Juan and the Paseo del Morro historic wall.
By the time I reached this section my legs were on fire, I was just hot overall in the sun. But I was still having a great time.


If you look at the satellite view versus map view you can easily tell how great a view we had, unobstructed from buildings, along most of the run!

heading out onto the Paseo del Morro was only going to get hotter. I knew this was the section they called “the heater”. You have the sun beating down on you as you run along the historic wall. There are no water stops on this section because it’s historic land and they need to keep trash/etc out of the area.

Boy is it beautiful though.

As you reached the turnaround out on this section there was a man standing there with a garden hose. A GARDEN HOSE! There was a water hookup here and this man had a hose and was hosing people down in the heat.

A true hero. Seriously.

Everyone waved to be sprayed as they passed him to cool down.
Then you head back out the way we came in and face the incredibly steep climb out of the Puerta de San Juan.
Pretty much everyone walked up this section. My Garmin showed 8-13.5% grade. It was as horrible as it sounds. Haha!

As I made my way back toward Iron Village to complete my first half of the run I chatted with a few other athletes about the weather and how the heat/climbing was just plain hard. We all laughed in misery and continued walking/jogging. A lot of athletes were doing a walk/job combo like myself at this point.

As I neared completion of my first lap I heard something like “Go John” as I was slowly jogging. I turned and was pretty sure it was Naidymar heading out to start her run.
A few minutes later I was at the turn around and asked Casey and Ben if Naidymar had just run out. They said Yep!

It ended up taking me another 3 miles to catch her after what was my last turn-around. That whole 3 miles was even hotter now, and my legs were definitely still killing me.

You will find yourself using every water stop to stay both hydrated and cool. The kid volunteers were now standing directly in the run paths away from the table holding jugs of water up in the air. This was in case you just wanted water dumped on you so you wouldn’t waste the cups. There were cups everywhere on the ground from people splashing themselves and discarding them onto the ground.

I had one dude dump water on my head at this point. It ended up being so much that my shoes ended up soaked.
So, pointer: You might want to wear ankle socks. I had on low rise type socks I use while cycling and it left my Achilles exposed, which due to my shoes now being soaking wet rubbed at my foot and cut into the back of my ankle/heel which was painful the last 5 miles of my run.

I caught Naidymar after my final turn around and tried to pace with her best I could.
I asked how her race was going and she said that while she wasn’t sore or in any pain, she was exhausted.
Naidymar told me she saw me on the bike ride but didn’t call out to me since she didn’t want to distract me.

We paced together for a couple miles and I tried to get her moving along at a slightly quicker speed with a jog/walk method as well. As I closed in on mile 11 I started to get ahead of Naidymar and eventually lost her as my finish was now just a little bit ahead. Naidymar still had 8 miles compared to my 2 miles.

Approaching that same chute near-ish the finish I jogged in to cheers and encouragement from the crowd. The support had been amazing all day.

I reached the turn.

“Lap One!? Finish?!” the woman yelled.
“Finish!” I replied and pointed.

The crowd there got louder and cheered me on.

Now before you get to cross the finishline you have that one last overpass to cross! Ha! Insult to an already brutal run.
I walked up it.
No.shame.

Jogging down I watched the other runners around me trying to space myself reasonably well from to the two or three others.

As I approached the finish chute I threw and arm up and smiled as I crossed. My ankle was hurting from where my shoe was cutting into me. My legs were on fire. And I was hungry.

 

But the entire race was amazing.

I had a blast.

I got my medal. My bottle of water. Thanked the volunteers. And walked toward the exit. As I exited the finish I remembered to turn off my Garmin.
Garmin finish time of 6:19:38. A strong day, but twenty minutes slower than I hoped for. Oh well. I knew I would have a hard time hitting 6 hours flat after my training being off the last two months.

Official Ironman finish time: 6:18:44

I ended up hitting the Ensure booth for my free bottle of Ensure. I found the tent that was giving away pizza and Pepsi to the athletes, and I sat in the shade and ate my lunch with Casey, Ben, and Naidymar’s mom as we tried to calculate Naidymar’s finish.

She had around 1:10 left to do 7 miles. A pace she could run without much trouble on a normal day, but at this point and her level of energy it wasn’t too likely. The old time limit of 8:30 was enough time, but the new time limit of 8 hours to complete the whole race was not.
Naidymar crossed at 8:21. But that didn’t end up mattering to her. She finished, and that was her goal. The only check-point/cutoff she was late for was the final one – the finish line. So she still crossed, had her name called, and received her medal. Which was a-ok by her.

After the race Naidymar and I gathered our bikes from Transition and made our way back to the hotel to clean up and eventually find dinner.


Remainder of my trip

Dinner after the race was, surprisingly, Japanese food. Casey and I had ramen, Naidymar and Ben had noodle and rice dishes.
The day after the race I went sight seeing back to Old San Juan with Casey. I was able to show her most all of the route that Naidymar and I ran. Everything was already cleaned up of course and I think I saw only one gel packet on the ground.

That afternoon Naidymar and her family left for the airport. This was when she told me that her official finish time was 8:21 (I didn’t know that the day before at the finish line) so it counts and as DNF. But that she wasn’t bothered and still proud of her performance.

“It’s good practice for the next one..” Naidymar casually mentioned before they got in their taxi.

Awesome. She had fun, was proud of her finish, and looking toward the next in the future. Whenever that might be. I was really proud.


Final Thought

Go race at Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico.

Seriously. Sign up and go do it. It was worth it.

The people are amazing. The course is beautiful. The staff is wonderful.
Travel was a little tricky, but nothing unusual. And it was easy to get around. Once you’re in the general area of the race you can walk to everything without any trouble. Uber is only a couple bucks per ride for anything you might need to get to quicker that’s further away.

Puerto Rico is very tourist friendly and you’re not going to feel unwelcome.
Now that I’ve raced there, if/when I make it back to race again I would certainly feel confident staying at nearby hotels versus at the host hotel. But, utilizing the host hotel option was incredibly convenient and I’m glad I did it.

I would definitely do this race again.

Final Cost

Oh man, this was scary to add up. No one likes looking at final numbers after a trip.
Note: these costs could be cheaper using the host hotel discount offered to athletes that I did not use because I booked with Chase Reward points via my credit card online portal.

Race Entry: $405 (includes one-day USATri membership fee)
Hotel: $1,304.12
Hotel Resort Fee: $178.40 (the fee they hit you with when you check out)
Plane Ticket: $477.82
Bike travel: $185 (roundtrip)
Bike box: $40 (got three uses out of this, but it is destroyed now)
Cash: $100 (this includes taxis, etc. I only brought $100 in cash to use)
Ironman Store: $143.51 (bought a shirt, glass, shirt for mom, casey, and a jersey for Naidymar)
Starbucks: $50 (it was on property and quick for drinks/snacks, haha!)
Dining: $93.28 (various small purchases, airport food, one lunch in San Juan)

Total: $2,977.13

Damn! That’s my total cost of what I technically “spent” on the trip.
A few quick adjustments though.. I had my Chase Rewards points to cover nearly all my room and airfare. My bike box was also something I already had and not something I paid for just for this trip.

Adjusted Total: $1,364.08

That’s actually notttttt that bad I feel like.

Let’s be real though. I “spent” quite a bit more because I purchased a camera for work, which in turn got me all the points I needed to cover a large chunk of this trip.
But that camera is a tool for my job, and will pay for itself.

I consider this a massive win-win.
And I’m glad I made the decision to upgrade gear for work to help finance my hobbies. Haha! (it covered 54% of my total trip cost… that’s amazing)

So..
However you manage your trip, good luck.

Go.
#RaceInParadise

You will not regret this decision.


More photos!

Here are a selection of other images from my trip for those interested!

4a sunrise arriving in New York

Mid afternoon and on my way to Puerto Rico

Arriving in Puerto Rico!

San Juan

After getting off the plane I made my way to baggage

Waiting for a taxi

Check In line was pretty long. A lot of people coming and going that Friday

They were able to get me a room that was ready amid many late-checkouts that day!

I had a narrow view toward the lagoon we would be swimming in.
That treetop you see between the buildings is actually the swim exit

The Starbucks in the lobby was handy. Too handy. Spent too much here on quick drinks or a snack.

The view from up in Naidymar’s family’s suite they were staying in was nuts. Two story room, ocean view.

Walking to dinner on Friday night

Heading back from dinner. The view toward our resort

Went walking around to check out the grounds before calling it a night.

Back up in my room I begrudgingly decided I needed to assemble my bike that night, rather than deal with it in the morning.

Getting started Saturday morning!

It was already a gorgeous day out

But definitely windy

Saying good morning to some of the resident wildlife as I waited for the 10am briefing

Heading to Transition for bike drop off

Ready to go!

We have a cactus audience! haha

We headed out to the waterfront to show Casey where we’d be swimming

They had the exit ramp set up

Second dinner that night. I didn’t eat much, but others were hungry

Getting everything ready for tomorrow morning

Race Morning

Dark out but certainly not quiet

Lots of people scattered around making their way to the stadium

Transition was pretty busy

Found Naidymar getting her transition ready. She was on the end and easy to spot

Ready to go swim!

Packed up and ready, also!

Making our way to the swim start. The sun is coming up

Approaching swim exit

Swim exit chute

Casey took a few photos, too, which are mixed in

Naidymar and Casey pointed out that my writing on my leg transferred when I kneeled down setting up transition earlier that morning

We’ll be swimming under this bridge

Swim exit there in the very center, you can see the small flags

Looking out into the lagoon you get an idea of how far the swim loop goes out

The bridge is already lined up with spectators

Big turnout between both the racers, and support

Nearly at the swim start

There’s the starting line! The clock reads 6:33. It’s still early

Sun is up and it’s looking like a gorgeous morning

Things are getting started

Naidymar’s start time is approaching! Cap is on. It’s really happening now!

She was in great spirits though, waving and everything!

Check out my horribly written number. The other side is even worse

This was when I was not only in the wrong start group, but also realized this HRM wasn’t synched to my watch! haha

Naidymar coming into T1

I was somewhere like 15 minutes behind Naidymar

Heading out on the bike course! Feeling good

Feeling strong coming off the bike, too. Had to do something dumb for the camera

Heading out on the run I was actually feeling pretty good still. Just hot. And I knew it was going to be a really hot run

Naidymar arriving in on the bike.

And off on the run

Coming in on my first loop

Miserably hot though!

And coming in to finish!

Done!

Whew! Done. Now time to wait for Naidymar

This was right after Naidymar crossed the finish and her mom was just so dang proud!

Walkin’ out. Done for the day. Cool new medal for the collection

Hot sweaty and sunburned. What a race

Back at the hotel. Had to get the smiling photo with my bike!

Ramen for dinner

Followed by ice cream

 

The next morning your could really see how bad my burn was

Coffee and Strava before we head out for the day

Part of the run course. One of the water stops was down by that yellow building

The run headed down this way

The run continued with a hard right near the cones in the center of this photo to the steepest part of the run. I guess I didn’t take a photo of it!

And the run continued out here along the wall (on the right)

Stopping for lunch while we were walking around

little bitty drink!

Trying out these new Xterra shorts!

Walking around that evening for some photos

Last night in Puerto Rico

Time to pack up my bike!
When I finally got home and unpacked it I found my front brakes were broken from the TSA opening up my box and repacking it poorly.

I got sunburned on my arms during the bike ride (aero position) but it was so strong that it burned in the small spaces on my watch strap! Hahaha!

Heading home!

Casey catching her flight to Michigan
..and a little dude flexin!

And I’m off! Good bye Puerto Rico!

Starting work on the very writeup you just read

We landed late in Florida and the stewardesses asked only people on a specific connection to get up and everyone else to stay seated… and people ACTUALLY waited!

My flight from Florida home to California and I have AN ENTIRE ROW TO MYSELF!!

And leaving Florida!

Late that night I landed back home. What a great trip.

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