JONATHAN HOTCHKISS 70.3 SAN JUAN RACE REPORT
T2 coaching and London based Pro Triathlete Jonathan Hotchkiss recently returned from a 70.3 triathlon race in Puerto Rico, as the report suggests things didn’t go according to plan but racing is about both the hard times and the good times both experiences offer valuable lessons as Jonathan discusses below:
hey say in life that “when you get lemons, you shouldn’t be “sour” but instead make yourself some lemonade”. But what happens when you make sure you buy apples and oranges and then you open the bag back at home, you’ve still got lemons!?San Juan 70.3 was a bit of a last minute race choice. After a long winter of working full time and training as much as this would allow (circa 18hrs a week), both my coach (T2 Coaching) and I wanted to race to see exactly where we were at in our preparation for the first important race of the season, Ironman South Africa at the end of April. It was a long way to go for a “test” but we needed a decent standard or racing and a 70.3 distance race to really ask and answer some questions. We had worked very hard in the previous 3 months and expected to see some fruit from this labour.
The week leading into the race went pretty well with the exception of having my credit card details stolen and ripped off!!! But physically, everything over in Puerto Rico was good. A recky of the swim, bike and run aspects of the course told me it would be a hot and fast swim and bike, with a brutally hard and hilly run; the perfect test for me!
Race morning came and went with no fuss and I was soon lined up on the shore of the lagoon ready for the non-wetsuit 1.9km swim to kick things off.
As the hooter sounded for the 25 or so Pro men to start the pace was solid, but nothing beyond my comfort zone and I was quite happy to settle into a good pace at the back of the main pack. My new ZeroD tri kit was super comfy and fast in the water; helping me without the normal wetsuit we have in most races. The first turn point at 700m, however, proved to be the point where I answered the first question of the winter’s training. The pace didn’t increase, but I just started to drop off the back of the group. Nothing felt different; I simply wasn’t holding the same speed. My swim time all winter has been most affected and 50-60min swims just wasn’t enough to give me the race pace and speed endurance I needed to swim well for the duration. I swam most of the remaining 1km on my own, still feeling comfortable, but losing serious time with every stroke.
As I climbed the steps from the tropical lagoon and looked at my watch I knew it hadn’t been a great swim. 28mins non-wetsuit 2 years ago would have been good for me, but nowadays it didn’t cut it and I knew I must be at least 3 minutes down on the main group. A long run to transition, helmet on and I grabbed my VO2 Victory TT and was running out towards the exit still quite happy to see how things would pan out; there was over 3hrs of racing left and lots can happen.
My coach and I had a very set plan for the bike and I was to look to average a certain power level (watts) for the ride, without ever exceeding serious “spikes” in this effort. We knew I could hold this level and then run well so we just wanted to see how this placed me in a big race.
Things were going well up to the half-way point. My watts were solid and I felt really comfortable. I wasn’t gaining on the lead 2-3 guys but the rest were slowly being caught. I knew if I could hold this for the rest of the bike and then unleash the run we expected to then we’d have some great answers to our questions. However, this very quickly changed from being the situation. I started to lose all power in my legs and the effort that had felt comfortable 5 miles earlier now felt hardly reachable. My watts started to drop and I was losing time considerably; this certainly wasn’t part of the plan. It felt like I limped back to T2 having ridden nearly 10minutes slower for the 2nd half of the 56mile ride than the first. The run was going to be interesting…but I was still keen to see if the new run speed would still turn up even if the bike legs hadn’t.
As soon as I jumped off the bike we got that answer too. The lack of power and energy from the bike was still there once I was upright on two feet too. I racked my bike, pulled on the CompresSport compression and running shoes, grabbed the caffeinated PowerBar gel and set off out onto the run with the hot sun beating down.
Mentally, I felt pretty good and I focussed on the technical work we’ve done on running form; “Lean, drive with the hips, depth…” I’d simply run at what felt like the right effort and see what my split was after the first mile. We knew what I was capable of running and I had a very firm figure in mind. Glancing at my watch as I passed the 1mile marker I was disappointed but, (given how my legs actually felt) not entirely surprised to see my split nearly 50s slower than we’d expected. But… it’s so often about context and 1 mile isn’t always the same as another, especially on a race course I hadn’t been on before. I wanted to see how things compared the other guys on the course; it was possible of course that this simply was a very slow hard run and actually I wasn’t going that slowly compared to my competition. The 3.1mile turn around point was the next target. So I just got back to focussing on me and my form.
The run course, was two 10.5km laps, which went up to the historical and beautiful old fort area of San Juan, including two seriously steep and cobbled hills that both needed to be ascended and descended each lap. Though never feeling like I was striding along like I have in training, I still felt pretty good in terms of run form and as the turn around point approached and I clocked each of the guys in front of me, I could see that other than the lead 2-3 guys, I wasn’t in bad shape at all and was running as quick as the rest. As I turned and headed back up one of the cobbled hills to start the journey back to the end of the first lap, I knew I was both out of the money and the World Champ qualifying points. The poor swim and bike had left me too far back and though I was gaining some time on lots of the guys in front, it wasn’t significant enough.
I made the call to simply run the rest of the first lap well and then call it quits. The final 6.5 miles that the 2nd lap contained wouldn’t tell me anything I didn’t know by now and wouldn’t see me break back into the top 10, but it would sap a lot of energy out of my legs that would take additional time to recover from. We’d asked and answered the questions… and now clearly had more that needed to be answered too (like why had I so suddenly lost my power and energy on the bike and not performed even close to my training levels); so the race had served it’s purpose.
I never like quitting a race and especially after working so hard in the last few months, it hadn’t been an expected outcome at all. In this case though, as a professional, it was the right thing to do in the circumstances. We like to think in life that we get what we deserve when we work really hard for something, but life’s not always like that. Though on paper, the actual “result” of the race would suggest it a failure, as an exercise to prepare for IM SA, it had in a weird way, been a success. There’s a lot still to be done over the next 5 weeks to finish getting ready for South Africa and clearly a few things that need to be cleared up so that we do reap the rewards of the hard work, but that’s part of the beauty and value of achieving anything – the harder you have to work the more satisfying the outcome is. As my current favourite saying goes “Think relentlessly positive!”.
POWERBAR ON BOARD WITH T2COACHING
Another important piece of the performance puzzle was put in place this week as Powerbar came on board as nutritional partner for T2coaching Triathletes for the 2012 season. Coach Tom Bennett said “ It feels a really good fit as Powerbar already support T2′s IM pro Jonathan Hotchkiss and the TT race team (many of whom are coached by T2) few nutritional companies can match Powerbars range of products or the level of research backing that goes into testing and producing their products”. Athletes from the south west London based T2 development squad in particular will benefit from this additional support in their journey to becoming elite athletes.
Range of Powerbar products available to T2 Athletes
Back in 1983, a Canadian Olympic distance runner lost his lead in a marathon a few kilometers before the finish when his body ran out of energy. This experience led the runner and his wife, a world-class runner and a nutrition specialist, to begin the search for the ideal athletic energy food.
After three years and creating hundreds of formulations an unique low-fat energy bar with a perfect balance of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein was born. Athletic friends of the couple tested the first PowerBars and experienced noticeable improvements in performance.
The bars quickly became essential equipment among top cyclists, runners and triathletes and their use soon spread to many other sports. Demand grew so much that today PowerBar products are distributed in over 35 countries and the PowerBar brand has become synonymous with nutrition, energy and optimum performance.
T2COACHING ATHLETE BLOGS ON EATING GLUTEN FREE…
An interesting article on T2 coaching Professional Triathlete Jonathan Hotchkiss on how he manages his gluten intolerance on a daily basis, eating gluten free and how it affects his training. His article can be found at Easy Eats Magazine