Ironman Experience – Virtual & Reality

May 9th, 2020, Santa Rosa, CA – The day I have been looking forward to. After all, all of 2020 has been about this race that I have signed up for. Ironman Santa Rosa 70.3. A gorgeous course that weaves through the wine country. A top sought after race in CA. People from all over the world fly into to California for this destination race.

Athletes swim 1.2 miles in Lake Sonoma, traverse 56-miles on bike through the beautiful Sonoma County wine country in the Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valleys, and run Santa Rosa Creek trail, that is nicely covered with trees for the much needed shades on a hot day.

Today was just the perfect race weather. Morning started cool and mildly windy. Saturday races are the best ones in my opinion. I get to sleep in all Sunday long to recover from the drama of the weekend before I go back to work wearing the finisher t-shirt and carry the medal in my to show to my boss who also appreciates triathlons.

May 8th, 2020, Santa Rosa, CA – The bib pick up the day. Plan is to check into the AirBnb I booked in early February. Feed lunch to Siddharth, get him to nap in the Airbnb before I head out to the transition area for bike and gear check-in.

Ironman Experience – Food Plan

The food plan for this one big day starts, a week prior to the race.

  • Carb loading
  • Race day nutrition
  • Nervousness nibbles
  • Siddharth’s food plan

Thumb Rule for nutrition for the race week: Never ever try anything new. It is a guaranteed ticket to GI issues and disaster even if I tried anything new 5 days prior to the race day. After all, the nervousness of the race picks up pace as the day gets closer.

My race nutrition plan:

4AM: Coffee, 2 toasts, egg whites.

6AM: Banana

7AM: Line up for swim start and take a pack of e-gel. I have been in situations in the races, by the time my wave gets called, I am standing in the line for 20-30 mins. I honestly hate this wait. All the warm up I did to get used to the water before standing in the line is all gone. 30 mins later, the water still feels cold. E-gel works great for me. 10-mins before I get into the water, I gulp a full packet.

Bike Transition: 2-Idlies

On the Bike: EFS electrolyte 2 bottles. Each has 24 grams of carbs. I average 60 grams of carbs per hour on the bike. It’s a combination of EFS, e-gels, sandwich with generous amount of honey and salt tablets.

Run Transition: E-gel

On the Run: More E-gels. I take one per hour.

Ironman Experience – Virtual Swim Start

Water temp is 59F. I am all set. I have procured a Roka wetsuit at a sale in Sports Basement. Best of all, I have been wearing the wetsuit to practice the open water swim at Gull Park in San Mateo. I love my Roka. It’s so much more flexible around the arms and doesn’t feel like I am about die from compression.

Gull Park water in February and March were cold enough that 59F in Lake Sonoma shouldn’t feel that cold after all. I am all set for a kick-ass swim.

I have been doing a lot of stroke corrections, through video analysis. He corrected a major mistake in my stroke.

Here are some of the comments from the coach that helped me a great deal.

Your main issue is pretty typical for all swimmers: the so-called high-elbow or “early vertical forearm.”

Not sure if I’ve sent this video before, but this is the main idea:

When you put your hand in the water, you don’t want to immediately press down or pull back. You’re really hinging at the elbow and *then* pressing back. Your fingertips should be pointing down to the bottom of the pool before you press back.
One thing that will help you set up well for this is not digging too deep on first entry into the water. Try looking forward and your hands should be at about eye level right after they enter the water.

And that’s all the correction I needed to take. I already felt better on the swim. This time, I am sure, I will not only make the cut-off but also come out the water not feeling like I am done for the day.

May 9th, 2020, Santa Clara, CA – I didn’t have to get into my Roka wetsuit. I didn’t have to wait in the line on a cold morning, no nervousness bath room visits, no e-gels to gulp. I woke up at 6AM, had my first cup of coffee. Had a nice breakfast as planned for the race day.

Walked to the backyard in my PJs and did my swim. It looked like this.

dryland swim

If you have not tried these dryland swim exercises, these are much harder than actually swimming for an hour in the water. I did the following sets.

  • 4×15 full stroke
  • 4×15 catch only
  • 4×15 finish only

No cramps in the water, no nervous energy spent, nobody kicked on my face, no goggle leaks. It was a pleasant swim and I completed it in 15-mins.

Well, to my personal satisfaction, I know I would have had a fun open water swim based on the March 1st open water swim, the last one for the season.

Gullpark swim

Ironman Experience – Swim to Bike Transition

Santa Rosa, CA – Getting out of the wetsuit is one of the most difficult annoying things a triathlete would have to do,  in my opinion. One can never practice this enough. I always roll on the ground as I take off the wetsuit. It’s such a big deal. If I didn’t forget to use the body glide for neck and hands, I would come out of the water with no chaffing.

But, I almost always forget this step and realize the uncomfortable feeling at the transition.

In 2018, my bike goggles broke at the transition. I had to scramble and ask a few athletes and spectators for a spare pair. Thankfully, I spotted a friend who had an extra pair. This time, my game plan is to keep the bike goggles in a box, so it doesn’t break.

And most importantly, enjoy eating the home made idlies. Those are super delicious at the transition.

Santa Clara, CA – After a glorious swim sets at the back yard. I transitioned to the bike set up on my wahoo smart trainer, equipped with Zwift to simulate Santa Rosa bike course.

Best part is, I had the laptop loaded with all three seasons of “The Little Things”, a Netflix series. I hate watching movies and TV in general. But, with these indoor training, I have learned to stare at something that moves.

Bike training has been an adventure of its own. I started the season with a 96 W on FTP and slowly progressed 151 W in about 4 months. I am super happy about the progress.

Here is how I created the Ironman bike course on Zwift.

  • Create a free account with
  • Create a race and pick the ironman course by searching. You will find most of the Ironman courses in the website.
  • Create your personal bike profile.
  • Pick the intensity with which you want ride.
  • I picked 65% of my FTP
  • Download the Zwift file and load it to your workout folder in Zwift.

Just like that, the Ironman course is ready to be ridden from home. I decided to do 65% of my FTP, so I don’t burn out. And weekend workouts are supposed to be a long easy endurance rides as opposed to be a hard workouts.

Santa Rosa 70.3 on Zwift

Ceiling fan and stand fan were in full-swing. I generally don’t sweat much. But, today was different. I was drenched in sweat and no fan or cold water could cool me off.

I am used to doing long rides, spinning in place by now. Since I became a mother, going out for long rides have taken a back seat. It’s much easier to squeeze in bike rides at home between Siddharth’s naps than heading out for hours.

In fact, I don’t miss outdoor ride much. Especially the fact that I can set up my bike on the deck for a nice outdoor ride, I have gotten used to this stay in place from 2018 already.

Ironman Experience – Bike to Run Transition

Santa Rosa, CA – Usually a short transition, an e-gel, few sips of water, switch to Team Asha running shirt, Team Asha hat, all set to go.

I have lost nearly 12 lbs since January 2020. At 137 lbs, now I can wear some of my old clothes and that includes my favorite Team Asha red shirt. And the motivation behind losing weight was also to see if my running speed would improve a bit. And it sure did improve.

Team Asha

Santa Clara, CA – After getting off the bike, I went for a short 1-mile run to work off my legs. You read that right. Not the 13.1 mile run that I would have done this day in Santa Rosa. But, I am not in Santa Rosa and we have shelter in place order from the county.

The trails are crowded with people biking and running. I am not comfortable with the idea of not maintain social distancing on the trails.

So, I decided that I will do the run on Sunday morning before the mainstream crowd hits the trail. But, I highly doubt I would go for 13.1 miles however.

Run training this season has been exceptionally good. I have chronic pyriformis tightness and no softball or foam rolling can seemed to get rid of it. I finally found my solution. Josh at “I Feel Your Pain” at Sunnyvale. I would go to him and work the muscle for 30 mins every week. I ran a half marathon in November 2018 without any pain.

Throughout the season the comfort level and speed were looking upwards on the runs.

This is my fastest 5K run in years, and especially after pregnancy.

5k run

I still do a run-walk and average a 15-min pace, especially after a long bike ride.

Ironman Experience – Race Finish

I estimated my race to go this way in Santa Rosa.

  • Swim 56 mins
  • T1 – 12 mins
  • Bike – 3:45 hrs
  • T2 – 5 mins
  • Run- 3:15 mins

In reality here is what happened in Santa Clara.

  • 15 mins of swim cord workout
  • T1 – Nice 45 min for breakfast and facebook catch up
  • Bike – 2:45 hours on the smart trainer
  • T2 – 10 mins to give hugs, kisses and some playing with Siddharth
  • Run – 15 min run.

Ironman Experience – The Learning Experience

When you train for a half or full ironman, or any race for that matter, that race pretty much consumes your life. Who dares to disagree with me on this ?

My experience is no different. I wake up at 5AM every morning and go to bed around 9PM. When there was office to go to, I would finish my workouts early in the morning. Local swimming pool used open at 5AM and that used to workout perfectly for my schedule.

Post Shelter in place, things have changed. I start my work day early and finish early. Do my workouts in the evenings.

My Ironman 70.3 race didn’t go as per plan as usual. But, a lot came out of this experience. I learned a lot more about myself and what really matters to me.

Watch for the slipping of my standards! Lower standards seem to make life easier, but they crush motivation.

We all have plenty of excuses now to lower our standards but don’t do it!

Of course we need to make changes based on what’s possible under the circumstances.

If I kick ass and try my best at my training, I enjoy it more and have motivation in all areas of life.

One key area is raise my standards of what attitude I will accept from myself. Am I ok with being negative and making excuses? Am i OK with being mediocre? Am I OK with feeling like a victim of circumstances? Hell NO.

Is it really impossible to train and eat well because of… my child? my spouse? my job? because then virus situation is depressing? I don’t have enough time? I am stuck indoors? The answer is a resounding NO.