Ironman San Juan Race Report

ironman_triathlon_sanjuanIronman San Juan was an incredible experience (outside of getting home but even that was an experience) and one I cannot wait to repeat again next year.  That is correct……I have plans to compete at Ironman San Juan next year.  The venue was incredible, the people better than that and the food was top-notch.  It did not hurt that this was like going home and one that I will cherish forever.

If you had been following my wife Karen through Twitteror Facebook you know that I missed my goal times but a hefty margin but after much contemplation and conversation with my coach the end product proves what a terrific race I had.  I would be remise if I did not say Thank You to all of you for your support.  It has proven to be invaluable and a tremendous source of inspiration and motivation.

Now let’s break this down Hubie Brown style…….



Relaxing Before Heading To Swim Start

Having booked a room at the host hotel I did not have to wake up super early to travel to the race site.  I set my alarm for 4:30am so that I could eat breakfast by 4:45am which was 3 hours prior to my wave start.  Those three hours would provide me with enough time to go to the bathroom and clean out the system before the gun went off.  Typical of race day my breakfast was granola with almond milk, one rice cake with peanut butter and 1/2 sliced banana and a Herbalife24 Carb-Smoothie with the other half of the banana.  One cup of coffee would accompany this breakfast and help to get the system moving and functioning properly.

After breakfast I headed downstairs with Karen to make the 2 minute walk to Sixto Escobar Stadium where transition was setup.  Once at my rack I laid out all my clothes and that is when the fireworks started going off.  In the 45 minutes I was in transition I heard no less than 5 wheels blow from being over-inflated.  It is hot in San Juan, hotter than normal this time of year, and thus the air was already expanded in the tires and when the athletes were trying to fit in 140 psi the tubes or clinchers would blow.  The noise was loud and kept happening over and over again.  My buddy Juan popped over to my rack with his bike pump and I filled up my tires, laid out my cycling shoes, running shoes, helmet, race belt, sunglasses, and HoneyStinger Waffles.  Poured the Herbalife24 Prolong into my Speedfil and filled up the A2 with the liquified EFS Liquid Shot Vanilla.  Placed my tiny cooler with my two handhelds of EFS and my recovery food of peanut butter and banana sandwich, an apple and a pear.  All set up and grab Juan to walk out the stadium when we run into Richard.  Photo opportunity taken and time to head back upstairs to relax before walking over to the swim start.

After laying down in the bed for about an hour it was time to head over to the swim which was a 10 minute slow walk.  Karen and I took are time getting there and once there I figured I should do some warm-up swimming and tossed myself in the water for a few minutes.  The water was warm but the swim felt good.  I was ready for this day.  As we walked across the street I found my wave and stood in line with the rest of the athletes, when I over heard the dreaded question:  What are you shooting for?  The question was not directed at me but the conversation broke down like this:

  • I am hoping to be around 6 hours.
  • Yeah, I want to do a 40 minute swim then hold 230 watts on the bike….blah, blah, blah
  • Oh you race with watts.  I use my hear rate.
  • Dude, once you go watts you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.  It is the best.  Best since sliced bread.  You know that sh*t that Samuel Jackson and John Travolta looked at in Pulp Fiction?  Yeah, watts is even better than that.  You thought the invention of the wheel was big……shoot WATTS is where it’s at (not exactly this way but it might as well have been.)

We move closer and closer and it is now our turn to get in the water.



Out Of The Water And Onto The 500+ Yard Run To T1

I had made the determination to put myself in the middle of the front row and go for it.  Swim all out for 200-300 meters to breakaway from the fray and then settle into a nice rithym.  I stood on the beach until about 1 minute to go and then waded into the water and when the gun went off so did I.  I swam as hard as I could without sighting because every time I turned to breathe there was a guy there.  In addition to that I tend to swim to my right which in this case was a good thing as the buoys were all lined to the right and we were swimming in a clockwise motion.

After some feet slapping and quick kicking I settled in.  I felt like I was cruising and trying to figure out if I wanted to push harder or save myself for the bike and run.  I was never alone and felt that I was doing a good job of swimming at a good race pace.  Before I knew it I was making the right hand turn at the red buoy when a few of the swimmers from the wave behind me started passing me.  Around the second turn buoy and headed for home.  I know I had 9 orange buoys before hitting the bridge and I started counting them off.  The sighting was very good and eventually I was passing swim caps from two waves prior to the M35-39 age group.

Once I got to the bridge the sea floor rose quickly and was slightly disorienting.  Through the bridge and we were in an area with a lot of chop.  Being on the small side I was getting tossed around by the 1 foot to 2 foot swells.  At this point I was swallowing so much water and pushed to get to the end.  This is when I turned and saw the Hammer Nutrition race kit.  I thought it might be Richard and as I got out of the water it turns out that it was Richard.  I knew that he was a fast swimmer and thought to myself that getting out with him was a good thing.  I looked down at my watch and saw 41:XX and felt the disappointment immediately.

I had to block it out because it was now a long run to the transition area.  By long I mean long.  Well over 500 yards to where my bike was stationed on the opposite end of transition.  Trying to forget the swim and not trip on the way there were the only things on my mind.

  • Goal:  35:00 – 37:00
  • Actual: 41:37 (2:11/100m)
  • Rank: 620 Overall; 129 M35-39

Check Out The Ocean Behind Me

After mounting the bike I knew that I would be facing a very flat course and told myself to hold back a bit because I did not want to fry myself before the run.  Having driven the course the day before I knew the way out would be the tailwind and then the way back would be the headwind so it made more sense to enjoy the out but conserve energy.

As I started out I went to take a sip and immediately the tip of the straw flew out and down to the ground.  I would be riding this course with no Prolong was my immediate thought.  Of course though the straw worked fine but I would have to keep it pointed up to avoid spilling all over.  Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.  As we get started out we do a few climbs to get out on the highway, which was completely closed down for the triathlon…..just an incredible feeling to be riding a highway devoid of cars.
It wasn’t until between Miles 5 and 10 that I finally realized that the wind was in my face and that I could stop thinking about the swim.  Nothing could be done now so just enjoy the ride.  I was passing a handful of riders but not really pushing the effort level.  I looked at my watch a couple of times and noticed that my heart rate was fairly constant in the 150-155 range but I also knew I had to bring it down as that is pretty close to lactate threshold for me on the bike.
When I hit the turn around I knew I had just gone 20 miles and the legs felt great.  On the way back into town it felt like I was riding for forever and the reason it seemed that way was the wind shifted and was again in my face.  The 8 miles back to the turn around to do the second loop felt forever and when the rider next to me asked ‘Where is the turn around?’ as I was passing him I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.
I also may have felt that way because I was not drafting the way the majority of the riders were drafting.  These guys were wheel sucking big time.  At one point I could here disks and aero wheels coming up behind me.  Fully expecting one or two riders the amazement on my face must have been priceless when 10-12 guys passed me as a peleton.  Not even trying to draft I got scooped up in the wind pull.  I was there for about 15 seconds before they dropped me but you could feel the advantage they gave each other.  There was also another rider I was behind who made zero attempts to pass the rider in front of him for a good 3-5 minutes.  It was insane and the officials were out in full force.  I saw two red cards handed out and that made me happy.
Around Mile 45 I saw a man jumping up and down and cheering like crazy.  I did a double take and he looked just like my Dad.  It was eerie and I immediately welled up inside.  I could feel the tears build up in my eyes bought fought them back and did what I could to maintain my composure and then it happened.  I ran out of liquids and instead of panicking I pulled back a bit more knowing I only had about 20 more minutes of riding.  Not a bid deal and just needed to get through it.
Trying to finish strong was tough as the end of the ride was on and off ramps and bridges so essentially the majority of the climbing was at the end.  Knowing that I was about to get started on my run I pushed through and passed a few more riders along the way.  I got my feet out of my shoes and coasted into the dismount line ready to run.
  • Goal: 2:40 – 2:45
  • Actual: 2:46:15 (20.21 mph)
  • Rank: 433 Overall; 105 M35-39

Running Through El Morro

After grabbing a handful of cold water out of my little cooler I slipped on my running shoes and grabbed my two handhelds of EFS and was ready to hit the run course.  My goal was to try to negative split the run which meant going out slow and getting comfortable and then turning it on at the end.

I was true to my plan as I saw splits in the 8:30/mile range.  This made me smile as I was actually executing the plan I had set out to do.  The only issues I did not factor into my pacing plan was how hilly the course turned out to be and the heat that we had to deal with.  Karen heard natives of the island even say that the temperature was very hot for Puerto Rico that time of the year.
Not one to make excused I pushed through and made it a point to grab water and ice on the way through every aid station.  I poured water over my head, chewed on ice and what I did not chew on I tossed inside my kit.  When the first hill hit I immediately thought of San Francisco and saw so many people walking and knew that if I ran I would be able to gain valuable time on them.  I did not let up and just kept pumping my arms up and down all of the hills through out the course.
When I hit the turn around for the second loop I could not believe that I was 7 miles away from completing my third 70.3 Ironman race.  This gave me some extra inspiration and I picked up the pace and that is when I felt the first rub of my toes on my shoes.  With all the water being poured over my head plus the hoses on the course my feet were shifting inside my shoes.  Going up hills was tough but was worse going down the hills.  Every step became tougher and this pushed my splits for the final 2 sets of 15 minutes to 9:09/mi and 9:39/mi.
It was at approximately the 11.5 mile mark that I knew I had to just bury my head and run through the pain.  The faster I ran the faster it would be over with and so I did.  I was passed by a guy in my age group with a kit that said Energizer on it and I was not going to let him beat me.  I pushed and right at the Mile 13 marker I passed him and pushed through the end.  My final half-mile was run at an 8:30/mi pace.
I crossed the finish line happy that I would finally be able to take my shoes off and let my feet breathe but also caught another lump in my throat thinking about my father.  Karen was right there at the end the way she always is and that made the pain of the day go away.
  • Goal: 1:40 – 1:45
  • Actual: 1:57:00 (8:47/mi)
  • Rank: 267 Overall; 67 M35-39

All Done And Ready To KEEP Eating

While my goal time was not met I am very proud of my race.  I executed the plan to the T.  I busted out of the gate in the swim, I held back on the bike and still managed 20 mph and did not fly out of T2 into the run and burn out.  After talking with Coach there are a couple of tiny things I would change.  First I would not go all out at the swim start but instead swim my race and find feet to draft off of.  I know I can swim faster but burning that energy and going anaerobic may have cost me more than it saved me in time.  On the bike and run I could have pushed slightly harder.  On the second half of the bike I was at an HR of between 135 and 140bpm.  I could push that to 145bpm for sure and not have wasted energy.  From the run perspective I could have pushed harder on the second half as my HR stayed in the 150-155bpm range.  These hear rates are great for an Ironman but for a Half-Ironman I can probably push just a tad harder.  This is being nit-picky because that is how I am built, but all in all on a very hot day I executed a tremendous race.  My nutrition and hydration were spot on and shows that I have learned how to pace for upcoming Ironman Texas.

  • Goal: 5:03 – 5:13
  • Actual: 5:29:35
  • Top 25% Overall

Dinner In Old San Juan

I ate just about everything in sight.  It was a hot day and I know I must have dropped close to 10 pounds out there.  I ate oranges and bananas and pizza, then my recovery sandwich and fruit.  If I could get my hands on it I ate it was pretty much how it went down.  After spending some time gathering my thoughts of the day I went and retrieved my bike and made my way to the hotel room to lay down. This was short-lived as Karen was hungry and we decided to go to eat and early dinner with Juan and his wife at Cafe Berlin.

Do it if you can.  The swim course is excellent outside of the final 200 meters but in the grand scheme of things that is nothing.  The bike course is gorgeous.  Beaches and ocean views along with nature preserve parks can’t be beat.  The run course is very challenging but with a run through parts of Old San Juan and past the castle at El Morro and the history is with you.
The volunteers and crowd were tremendous.  The people were cheering for you even if their athlete passed two hours before you even reached them.  There was singing and dancing on both the bike and run course.  Vuvuzuellas were played and there was plenty of water, bananas, oranges and Gatorade on the course.  The only downside was no sponges to hold onto during the run but otherwise zero complaints.


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  1. Tonia says:

    First of all, congrats! Sometimes, sticking to the plan is more important than hitting goal times. Racing smart is the key.

    Second, this report may have freaked me out a little. Probably shouldn’t read these things during taper.
    Tonia recently posted..a trifecta of letters …My Profile

  2. Matt Oravec says:

    Love the picture of you two in old san juan, look so happy :)

    Hey man, I fell into this in the past, I set goals and am obsessed w/ hitting those goals. It took last year to calm down and just have fun at the races. I get the same times if I have fun than if I bust my ass (not sure how this works, but trust me it works out this way haha).

    I think my goals this year are sub 6hrs on all my courses (even Wild Flower… which is very ambitious). I am not going to break down my times though and shoot for them, it becomes too much of a head game and then you lose focus of your actual awesome performance because you didn’t hit the splits you wanted.

    Keep your head up, awesome job out there and you are still on track for everything. How did you feel overall? When we did Muncie as our 70.3 before the full we both felt very comfortable at that distance, that should be key to know where your training is at.

    Great job again buddy!
    Matt Oravec recently posted..Reviewing the PlanMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      Yeah, my coach and I talked for 20 minutes on Sunday night about the race and put it all in perspective. The swim is just something you have to do before you start the real race and thus no reason to kill myself and then worry about that pace/time if I don’t hit it.

      I felt great overall. My HR average was 150bpm which is really low compared to Cali and Austin for me. Of course the first question is could I have gone harder on the bike or run? The answer to that question is no on the bike b/c of the setup for the run and yes for the run but the blisters on my pinkie toes were killing me.
      CTER recently posted..Ironman San Juan Race ReportMy Profile

  3. Great job bro! Breaking 5:30 and cracking the top 25% in a branded ironman race is still a much bigger accomplishment than most of us will ever get to. And I would LOVE to get a bike split in a 70.3 over 20 mph. That takes a ton of conditioning by itself. But then to follow it with a sub-2 hour run split is quite noteworthy. Outstanding effort!
    Carolina John recently posted..It’s Maniac Time!My Profile

  4. katie says:

    wow – this sounds like you executed really well on a tough day! congratulations!
    katie recently posted..wordless wednesdayMy Profile

  5. Jeff Irvin says:

    Looks like you had a blast out on the course!

    You executed like you wanted to and from the sounds of it the heat was quite the factor. This is excellent experience for what it is going to be like for IMTX. In the heat, you have to back off some or you’ll be cooked!

    Congrats on another HIM and a race well paced!
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..Ironman Mont-Tremblant Training Week #1My Profile

    • CTER says:

      It had all the marking of being IMTX out there. The heat climbed up to 88* on that day and the sunburn on my arms, forehead, shoulders, neck and legs proves that.

      The eye on the prize as Coach said is IMTX and that is the concern. Having only a 7 day non-real taper she said was also not ideal……
      CTER recently posted..Ironman San Juan Race ReportMy Profile

  6. Marlene says:

    Yay! The long-awaited report! (okay, I didn’t have to wait *that* long)

    I love all the details you share… I’m sure this is valuable for yourself to look back on, but it helps me too! There is so much I have to learn so I read your reports hungrily (is that a word?) trying to soak up all I can.

    Congratulations on a stellar race! I’m glad you are taking away so many positives because there’s a lot more to a successful race than reaching goal times. Anything can happen out there over a 70.3 mile event. I can’t wait to find out what this is all about for myself.
    Marlene recently posted..Boston + Training – Week 11My Profile

  7. Karen says:

    Nice job Jason! PR would be an awesome destination race. Looks like you and Karen both had a great time :)
    Karen recently posted..Go Dirty Girl…My Profile

  8. misszippy says:

    I think you had a great day, Jason. Like you said, you stuck to your plan. Sometimes plans don’t work out exactly as we want, but you still rocked the course. And it sounds like a beautiful one to take in, too.

    Got chills about the guy who looked like your dad! I’m sure he was there with you.
    misszippy recently posted..Want to know what good form looks like?My Profile

  9. This makes me happy.
    not to mention all the awesome photos.
    Lady B is one smokin’ hot woman. …. ok back on track . .

    It sounds like it was an amazing event. You did awesome.
    Loving the Runner x 6 shirt you KNOW I am.

  10. Jen says:

    Fantastic, my Stotan, Ironman racing, awesome friend! Another great recap that i absolutely loved reading. An amazing race and perfectly executed plan, indeed!!

    How special to be touched by thoughts and resemblance of your father during the race.

    I can’t wait to see what is next for you ;)
    Jen recently posted..Belly aching’, more on the long run and Ragnar Race 2013My Profile

  11. Bob says:

    That was definintely a good race to do prior to IMTX. Fairly flat and HOT!
    I always try to hold back on the swim. By holding back, you sacrifice 2 minutes in a half (maybe 4 in a full) and just feel SO much better when the real race begins….BIKE RUN. I view the swim as a true warm up.

    Too bad about the peleton’s you encountered. BUT, at a full by holding back on the swim and coming out of the water at 1:20 or so (1000 people or so ahead of you), when you start hammering the bike, you can’t help but get a draft off all the people you are passing…. one of the advantages of 2500 participants at these WTC races, I guess…

    I passed 1000 + at IMFL 09 which was 10 per mile and I couldn’t help but notice the help that gave…
    Bob recently posted..KONA by CONTEST?My Profile

    • CTER says:

      The peleton was nuts. At Cali and Austin I never saw it but to hear that buzz coming from behind and then being literally pulled into it was an experience I never had before.

      In the full I can’ imagine there not being drafting because of the amount of people all launching at the same time.

      Passing 1000 people is crazy talk…..WOW!
      CTER recently posted..Ironman San Juan Race ReportMy Profile

  12. Jon says:

    Despite some hot conditions, you did great Jason!

    And thanks for spelling out how awesome of a race venue this is. Makes me want to visit Puerto Rico now.

    Congrats on another 70.3a
    Jon recently posted..National Half Marathon Race ReportMy Profile

  13. Patrick says:

    Great race man! I love all the pics at the end. Additionally, your breakdown of the race is always awesome to read.
    Patrick recently posted..Change of PlansMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      Thanks brother. Believe it or not we bought the camera for the trip out of a vending machine in the airport in Houston. It was a Best Buy vending machine and we realized that we did not have a camera so we picked it up and it was perfect for us.
      CTER recently posted..Ironman San Juan Race ReportMy Profile

  14. lindsay says:

    i would consider this race just for the vacation, haha. congrats!! while you did not meet your goal time, you still completed another 1/2-iron and got in some valuable training. i can’t imagine how warm it was (since it’s already 80* here!) so i think it’s probably good that you held back a little.

    i would be mad about the bike drafters. i hope all the cheaters got carded!!
    lindsay recently posted..pomp and circumstanceMy Profile

  15. DR says:

    nice work on the race and that effort!- & congrats on another 70.3 under your belt…
    racing in those hot conditions will be super helpful for IMTX race weather?

  16. Morgan says:

    Congrats!!!! How’s that third notch on the 70.3 belt feel? :)
    Morgan recently posted..R2R Graduation!!!My Profile

  17. Natasha says:

    Nice execution and great pics! I wouldn’t have the courage to try that strategy on the swim but sounds like you got it!
    Natasha recently posted..Shamrock Yuengling Half Marathon RecapMy Profile

  18. Jennifer says:

    Jason, congrats on an awesome race!! I did the Divas half marathon in PR back in November, and I agree – love the island, people and food! I could seriously live there, but I’d have to get used to the humidity!

    Wonderful race report, loved reading about your adventure.

  19. Karen says:

    Nothing but love for you. You are a rockstar. (mine) and so happy we had this great adventure together including the cab driver/doctor..
    Cant wait for the next adventure.. oh wait – its this weekend AND next weekend!

  20. Caroline says:

    Jason I am not triathlon expert but I want to congratulate you on your race and great accomplishment
    seriously look at what you did! not only did you complete a difficult event that most people could not finish you are in the top 25%

    I love all the pictures. it looks like this was a good adventure for you and Karen.

    We are STILL Duke my friend…but EMZ she has been banned for life. talk about putting a curse on our beloved Devils….
    Caroline recently posted..Following the pack..and a curse on DukeMy Profile

  21. Mandy says:

    You are so freaking awesome Jason!! What an awesome race – and great photos!!

    Racing in this heat should really help with IMTX for sure. I hope you are feeling awesome, you are SO FAST!!! Congrats!
    Mandy recently posted..Wagging Wednesday: Growing Up FastMy Profile

  22. Kevin says:

    First off, CONGRATS!!! You fought a tough race in some extreme heat and kicked butt! You moved up in each discipline. The fact that you were pacing people left and right must have been a big motivator. Top 25% is huge!

    I didn’t know Jon showed up in San Juan (the Power/Watt guy) haha

    Awesome pictures! Jennie has the same Ironmate shirt.
    Kevin recently posted..You Want to Sponsor Me??? Thank you SBRSports, Inc.!My Profile

  23. Shannon says:

    Great race report Jason! I’ve been looking forward to hearing all of the details! You did an amazing job and should be incredibly proud. The hot temperatures in San Juan will do you well for IMTX. Karen was already trying to get me to sign up for San Juan next year! Ha! I think she needs to do it!! :) Looking forward to seeing Team Baha on Sunday! Congrats again!
    Shannon recently posted..I believe..My Profile

  24. Chuck says:

    Congrats bro!!

  25. I think you did great. Maybe the actual time is off from where you wanted to be, but with that top 25% it sounds like, adjusted for course conditions, you did exactly what you set out to do.
    Patrick Mahoney recently posted..Going To MiamiMy Profile

  26. Molly says:

    wow Jason! what a race, I think you did a great job, Congrats!!!
    Molly recently posted..What A March We’re Having!My Profile

  27. Jeannie says:

    Congrats on the finish! sounds like an eventful race. :)

  28. Woohoo!! Congrats on your race! I know you didn’t hit your time goals, but Jason, you did awesome and your time is amazing!!
    I loved reading your race report! I can only imagine how emotional that must have been when you saw someone that looked like your dad. I think I would have gotten chocked up too.
    Loved all the pictures…especially the one with you and Karen!
    Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) recently posted..Thursday Trio – Spring EditionMy Profile

  29. Jill says:

    I am super proud of you!! I’m not only proud of your effort and your performance but I’m also so proud that you are learning and not upset with yourself that you did not meet your A-goals….not that long ago this wouldn’t be the case. This journey of ours we set up for ourselves is a learning process and I say any time we can learn more about ourselves to make us better athletes is a good day in my book :). Congratulations on a week executed race.

    I got choked up about your dad, too….and how absolutely blessed you are to have Karen at your side. Lucky man! :)

    Love the pictures….they definitely tell a fantastic story!!

    Hope you’re enjoying that victory still!
    Jill recently posted..I’m Coming HomeMy Profile

  30. B.o.B. says:

    kick a$$!!! you did so amazing! that time is so impressive. you go Jason!!!

  31. Congratulations!! It sounds like you kicked the heat’s butt! Awesome job! :)

    And what a great collection of pictures at the end! It looks like an absolutely gorgeous place! You and Kevin need to do a race together so Karen and I can wear our matching Ironmate shirts. ;)
    Jennie Neumann recently posted..Bailey Update: Good News!My Profile

  32. Maria Simone says:

    Awesome race, Jason! This was an exciting read, and you raced so tough! Knowing you raced the best race you could is such a great feeling. You are going to rock IMTX. The fun is just beginning!!

    I hate the drafters so much. There were so many of them at Ironman Cozumel too. How can they feel like they did something worthwhile when they cheated?!
    Maria Simone recently posted..Girl Power Posse Tackles the Atlantic City St. Patty’s 10 miler & 5kMy Profile

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