Three in One – my last three race reports

October 24, 2016 70.3IronmanRace Reports  No comments

Since it’s been a very busy season, I’ve had very little time to actually take some time and write down my most recent experiences racing and leaving those thoughts here at Ironman Faith. So, I’ll do my best to recall those experiences and make a few brief reports.


The race was held on July 10th. The day of our first daughter’s birth and it just happened to be her 30th birthday! Both of our girls were in town for her birthday as well as their grandmother (Joy’s mom, Kathy). During the lead up to the race we checked into our typical accommodations at the World Mark, just two miles away from Windsor High School, where the race concludes. The day before were the typical prerace workouts… swim at Johnston’s Beach at morning start time, a little tune up on the bike and a short run to activate the legs. Then it was off to the expo to check in, drop off T2 gear and get a few last minute supplies needed the next day for the race.

One important factor that cannot be overlooked at this point of the story is this race, Vineman 70.3 was the race I was preparing for last year when I crashed on a 90+mile training ride, just weeks prior, and broke my hip. That devastating event, causing me to enjoy 3 ½ months on crutches with the notion that I may never run again, had me so focused to return here that it was constantly on my mind through the year. Now… it’s about to happen.


I get up at the usual time, 4:45am, have my bullet proof coffee, two hard boiled eggs and three strips of bacon… Good to go! Sara and her friend Erin, join me and actually drive me out to the race start at Johnston’s Beach. Soon afterward and getting settled into Transition; Joy, Aubrey and Kathy arrive. This year, now that WTC owns the Vineman brand and races, there are a few changes. Most notably is the new configuration to T1. Instead of the bike racks lining perpendicular to the river they are actually parallel to it. We all seemed to agree this was much nicer, allowing for multiple ways of exit rather than the crowded one row.


I’m heading out with my Age Group (55-59) about half way through the wave starts. As done many times before, just before I head off, I jump in the river just behind the dam and swim for about 4 min. The water is just around 72 degrees and wearing my ROKA sleeveless wetsuit, I feel really comfortable.

Now through the start corral and in the water it’s time to line up and mark the direction for the first 400 meters to the bridge. There is no overcast and the sun will play a factor. So I line up just inside the shade line from the south facing trees along the riverbank. 3, 2, 1 “horn!” We’re off… quite calm and relaxed, I stay on the edge of the shadow so I can easily see ahead. It’s not till the river veers to the right that we lose the shade and now the river ahead is just one big glare! I did have on polarized goggles that actually cut the glare down enough to spot the buoys ahead as silhouetted triangles jutting up from the water. Getting further up river we’re now passing through a lot of slower swimmers from earlier waves and I’m constantly bumping into feet and hands. As we approach the turn the river get extremely shallow, so much so I do what I don’t like doing and that is to stand up and walk around the turn but the depth was about 2 feet and there wasn’t much choice. Now around and back in a horizontal position I start swimming to T1, with the current. Again more slower peeps! The exit from the water is really well marked from previous years now that the wine barrels no longer mark the spot replaced by a large ROKA arch. Running up and quickly lying down, I strip my wetsuit and then head to my bike. Total Swim time: 31:24


After a pretty smooth T1, I’m at the bottom of the little hill out of T1 that many people opt to run/walk their bikes up. This time there were a lot doing just that but I stayed to the left and clipped in and rode up as I’ve done this race so many times I know the rhythm. Now up on River Rd. It’s a matter of getting used to the cool morning air in a wet tri-kit. I listen to the whirl of my race wheels and remind myself not to go hard and to race my race, not someone else’s race. Since my accident a year ago, getting fitness and speed back has been a slow journey and I’m not expecting to be as fast as two years ago when I won my age group but I do hope to race smart and at least capture a top 5 finish

Through most of the rolling terrain on Westside Rd. I am continuing to pass people, including my friend Cherie Gruenfeld, where we exchange hello’s and good wishes. It wasn’t until almost exchanging over to Dry Creek Rd did some of the faster guys in later wave starts begin to pass me. Then I noticed a 57 on the calf of a person slowly passing me. He gets a head a bit and I find myself pushing back past him. Then another guy who goes by the both of us… We let him go but the two 57 year old dudes continued to exchange places for several miles till Canyon Rd. Here I decide the pace is too much to keep for me to run well so I let him go, hoping it’s too much for him and his run will fall apart (it wont… but it does for the other guy!). Now in Alexander Valley, I just enjoy the beauty of the vineyards and familiar roads I know from this race and wine tasting here for years. Next comes Chalk Hill Rd. where the short but steep climb gives me a usual advantage since I know how to pace up this hill and enjoy the fast decent all the way over to Shiloh Rd. Then it’s academic getting through the industrial area, past the World Mark and into the high school. Total bike time: 2:39:23


Coming into transition where I rack my bike I’m all alone, typically a good sign but I don’t know how many of the All World Athletes are in who have lower numbers, so I’m just going to have to pay attention out on the road and make my best guess. As I leave T2 I immediately see my girls!! That puts wind in my sails! The crowds were great and I pass the place where I stood with my crutches most of last year cheering on my friends… now they’re cheering me. There’s the SVTC group. High fives, Isa sees me go by and chases me down for a picture. Smiles this is awesome. I feel good and the temps are perfect for a sunny day!!

Now according to race plan, Coach Amanda has me eating only about 90 calories an hour up to this point. I increase it to 180 and will start to enjoy coke and Red Bull at mile 6 or 7 depending on how I feel. Through the rollers I can tell my pace is slowing from the earlier 7:30 to about 8:15. After exiting the La Crema Vineyards, I am heading toward the airport turnaround and notice Mr.57… I know who that is… I’m not going to catch him as he’s got a good ½ mile lead on me, then I see Mr. Big Guy who passed the both of us. He’s running slow, I think I can catch him… Then I look up and see another 58 on a calf ahead who’s struggling… Definitely catching him, and do so easily. Another half mile up and I pass 58. Four miles to go, I’m holding on and start to feel the fatigue but I keep pushing… past the last aid station it’s about a mile and a half to the high school. I keep pushing… Then as we get back to the neighborhood with about a half-mile left, I notice a presence coming to my left; it’s Mr. 58!!! He’s either got his legs back or I’m not doing as well as I thought… turns out it’s the latter. I was on pace to break 5 hours but now it’s gonna be close and in an instant I think, “Heck no!” He’s not gonna beat me, it may mean being on or off the podium so I just hit it! Hard!! I want to go by him with so much power he can’t answer my surge. And for the next 3 minutes I run full out not looking back until I get in the final shoot toward the finish. I hear all kinds of cheers for the herculean effort. Is he there? Behind me? NO! I cross the finish line and almost collapse! That was the hardest finish to any race I’ve done. Run time 1:45:30

Total Race Time: 5:00:53 5th AG

As it turns out that last effort was the difference of being on the podium… So, goal reached, comeback race in the memory books as one of the greatest for me personally. So much to be thankful for! We grab gear, go back and shower, head to the awards ceremony and then off to La Crema Winery for post race celebration! One year in the making… Don’t know what I’m writing about? Read THIS.



4054925_gOccasionally, I go to these races solo. Unfortunately, Joy has a life too! Just kidding; that would be fortunately!! So, having been to CdA 10 years ago when I first did this race she opted out knowing we had other travel ahead (where I am currently writing this from 30K’ in the air on the way to the Big Island of Hawaii… yup IM World Championships on Saturday!).


Trying my best to do this race on the cheap and not take up too much time away from Joy. I fly up Wednesday into Spokane, grab my rental car and head to CdA and my Airbnb stay with Grant and Ashley, who were fabulous hosts and accommodated my schedule, tolerated the weird way of eating for this triathlete and graciously pointed me in every direction off the beaten path to restaurants, stores, etc.

On Thursday, I go over to the City Park and register… get my run shoes on and head out for a six mile run along the lake. Ah, yes… I remember this place. This is exactly where I melted down 10 years ago on a very hot day, dehydrated and lost a 5 minute lead in my age group at mile 14 of the run when I almost quit! Walking 9 of the remaining 12 miles I ended up with an 13th place finish at just 11 hours and a few seconds. I’m hoping to redeem that day!


4am… alarm! Kit on, breakfast ready, I quietly exit not wanting to disturb my hosts. I had scoped out my parking spot the day before when I checked in my bike to Transition. It only took 8 minutes to find my parking space perfectly preserved and ready and right across the street from City Park. Grabbing my morning cloths bag and run special needs bag I walk in the dark with about 20 people all converging to the entrance to transition. My location was in a perfect spot along the fence line allowing me a straight shot to the bike out avoiding a lot of the congestion in the center of transition. Checked on both bike and run gear bags making sure everything was there, I made a trip to the porta-potty… do my duty, don wetsuit, grab cap and goggles and check bike one more time. Everything is good.


It’s a rolling start (time trial) so I need to decide where to place myself. I opt for the front of the 1hour 10-minute group. The sky is clear and temps and predicted to get into the mid 90’s later in the day. After the singing of the national anthem, the gun goes off and the long line of wetsuit clad people start to enter the water for this two loop swim, which includes a dry land exit before entering the water again for loop two.

I go across the timing mat. I hit my watch to start my personal time and in the water I go!! The rolling starts are a lot more calm then the mass starts I’ve been accustomed to over the years. This one seemed nice and easy until the first turn, then a massive bunch up. “Patience,” I tell myself, “it’s a long day!” I get around and heading back to shore notice it’s not as choppy as going out. I breath to my right and see the sun is yet to come up over the ridge but it’ll be there next time through but at this point my new ROKA R1’s are killing it with clear sighting and color delineation! Exiting the first loop I notice a :32: something and am really happy with that. Now back into the water for a do over and there are fewer people to contend with. I swim out make the turn and oh!!! I can’t see. That sun is right there in our eyes. I just follow hands splashing in front of me and eventually I see the big red blob. Make the turn and keep my head down. Soon, I hear the announcer and follow the feet in front of me. Seems like a good pace. I exit the water in 1:08… argh!! What happened? Oh well… I run up onto the grass, where people are yelling to run to them so they can strip your wetsuit. “Get down!” a volunteer yells. I put on the brakes; heals down to stop running. But the ground is wet and my feet sweep out from under me and like a cartoon character I slip with feet flailing and land right on my tailbone! OUCH!!! That hurt. I get up, wetsuit in hand and run to my gear bag and into the change tent… I sit, “Dang!! That hurts.” Getting shoes and helmet the volunteer heads off with some of my nutrition, thinking that’s all I have, it doesn’t dawn on me until he’s gone! Oh well. Total swim time: 1:09:26


This is a different course from when I first did this race. The first ten miles are familiar but then it heads south on Hwy 95 with some good steady climbing. I pre-rode some of it to get a feel for the grade; nothing severe, just long and steady. I’m doing okay but my butt! Every pedal stroke sends a shiver up my spine. I’m hoping it settles down, eventually I get numb to it. I make the turn around and realize, I’m 23 miles from town. Well, let’s go. For the most part the ride is uneventful back until the decent of the road back to the lake where it is fast non-technical. Here if you’re not paying attention you could easily crash… and dang… someone did. We’re slowed diverted around. Oh, that doesn’t look good. I just keep going.

Now starting the second loop there is a noticeable wind coming from the south. Which doesn’t seem too bad until we’re back on 95! “What the H!” Wind and climbing, not a great combo and this will be the case for the next 23 miles!!! We’re like snails getting to the turn around but once there oh, this is gonna be a fast ride back home! And it was. Although I will admit I was truly happy to get back on my feet… my butt was saying “NO more!”

Total bike time: 5:57:19


Again, the run is different than when I did it in ’06. Instead of running through town on your way out for a two-loop course you head out through the City Park for a three loop run, most of which is familiar. At first I’m feeling okay, but I’d been doubting my run readiness having done a lot less volume than I had been used to. But the one thing that seemed to be more troublesome was the sore tailbone, now getting the jarring of each step. But I keep going.

The temps don’t seem to be all that bad. The winds were a factor blowing cooler air off the lake. I complete the first 8 ½ mile loop using it as a gage for how to pace the rest of the run, but by the time I get to the turn around of loop two I find myself beginning to breath with increasing labor. This reminded me of Wisconsin in 2010 where I wound up in the med tent for 3 hours after loosing 16 lbs on race day. Not wanting to repeat that I start to walk the aid stations to lower my heart rate and get some extra fluids in me. I start with the Red Bull and get a little pick up.

At this point Grant and Ashley have been my only on course support and they are encouraging each time I see them (always in a different place). I see them now heading back on the second loop and let them know things are starting to really hurt. Soon I find myself walking longer sections and run/walking for quite some time. Knowing where the up hills are worth walking and slight down hills worth running.

Starting the third loop, I notice the sky starts to turn color and the clear blue turns orange. Off in the distance a fire has started and the winds are bringing the smoke overhead, and soon a pale light covers the course. Here, I grab my special needs bag and grab my gummy bears. As I start to eat them I chat it up with the spectators hoping to adjust my attitude as self talk starts to creep in. Quickly I remember this is Ironman… a year ago, I was on the couch wondering if I’d ever be able to run again… and here I am. So, I run. When I could, the pace wasn’t bad but then I’d find myself back to a walk… “Come on Dan, just keep going!”

Remembering back in 2006, I had been walking most of that second loop. I remembered seeing my then coach Mitch, riding up ahead on a cruiser and used that as my motivation to run the final three miles. So, I committed to do the same this year. It wasn’t easy but by the time I got to the City Park exit where Grant and Ashley were I knew I only had a half-mile to the finish line! As I made the final left hand turn onto Sherman it’s a downhill finish, the crowds are loud, I’m alone… I hear the announcer say, here comes our Iron Reverend, from San Jose, California… that’s a first! The finish chute narrows and I high five and fist pump… I’m back, I am once again an Ironman!! Total run time: 4:24:40

Total Race time: 11:39:39 10th AG


When I reflect on this race, one thing often comes to mind… “I left everything out on the course.” It was one of, if not, the hardest Ironman I have done and I’m not sure why… could be many factors; still working on fitness, my tailbone, conditions… I honestly don’t know. One thing I am sure of, I still love doing this race. I love the lifestyle it allows me, one of recreation and beauty, one of grit and determination, one of health and youthfulness… one of experiencing the essence of life in such a short time; a single day!

As we approach the black lava of the Big Island. This time spent in reflection will help motivate and guide me… I hope the posts along the way here on Ironman Faith will do the same for you.




For all the branded Ironman races I’ve done, I’ve never been able to sleep in my own bed, wake up and drive to the race start. Not until this race! Formerly the Big Kahuna race, which Ironman (WTC) purchased last year and rebranded to Santa Cruz 70.3, was in conflict with Pacific Grove down on the southern end of the Monterey Bay. However, this year Pac Grove moved to June and being so close I had to do it.


I had never even spent much time training along this section of Hwy 1 so, after registering on Saturday, I checked in my bike and went for a short run. Then I drove the bike course as I had heard about a pretty good little climb that deviated off the highway. Yup… It’s a nice little climb. But the descent is even trickier as the tight technical turns will not allow for a fast drop back to the highway. I head home, make dinner and get to bed early… Joy is in LA with our daughter Aubrey.


4am… I’m up and putting on my gear. Grab a bulletproof coffee and make two scrambled eggs with cheese and avocado tacos with a sausage link. Making sure I have everything before heading out the door, I grab an extra bottle of water and pull out of the driveway at 4:25. It’ll take me 35 minutes to get to Santa Cruz. The day before I scoped out my parking spot which will give me about a 5 min walk to transition but I always enjoy the quiet, dark journey in the cool air to focus my thinking. Once in transition I find myself comfortably setting up on a very nice artificial turf soccer field with plenty of room and a good location. Over the PA system I hear the announcer ask if anyone has a spare tubular… well, since my tires are in good shape and I now only take “Pit Stop” along with me during the race, I pull mine out of my bag and walk it to the announcer… It was needed by one of the races pro male athletes, Pedro Gomes. He very enthusiastically offers to pay me for the tire but I tell him it’s no problem. He was running out of time only having about 15 min to get out of transition and down to the race start for a 6:30 am gun! (I later see Pedro coming in on the run as I was about 2 miles out on the run. He was out of the top 5 from what I could tell.)

The race starts in front of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, so I make the .4mile walk to the pier, drop off a pair of slip-ons for the run back and make my way over to the beach. Needing to go the bathroom, I look… everything is really backed up with long lines. Hmm? I make the walk back to transition where there are several porta-johns with no lines, no occupants. EZ PZ I’m back at the beach and the lines are still long. “That was a smart move!” I get my wetsuit zipped up and put on my goggles and cap and jump in the water to warm up… more like freeze up! Dang this water is cold! “Dumb move for not wearing an extra swim cap, oh well.”… not going back again now. There’s not enough time. I’m just going to have to gut it out.

In the swim corral, I look around. I know a few of the guys here and there’s some good competition. I’d love to make top 5, but it may be tough and not having done this race before puts me at a little disadvantage.


Race officials have our group move to the edge of the water. There are about 100 of us in the 55-59 age group… count down, 4, 3, 2… air horn! I hit my watch timer and run straight ahead into the surf. I haven’t done a beach start into breaking surf since my first year of racing back in 2001! Again the shock of the cold water hits me but now I’m just putting my head down into the mild chop and following the direction of the buoys keeping them to my right. Half way out the swells start to roll us back a bit and I feel a lot more up and down motion than before. Finally out to the turn buoy we head north, with the end of the pier about 100 yards away. Suddenly, I find myself swimming through a big patch of sea kelp! Whoa! Wasn’t expecting that! Just like Pacific Grove, known as the “Kelp Crawl.” It only lasts for about 50 yards then clears… next turn, sight to the edge of the 4 story hotel left of the pier where the swim exit is… and now heading back it feels as though the water is working with us not against us. Coming into shore I keep swimming until my fingers hit sand, then I stand up and run out, through the sand up the steps into the parking area I find my shoes and strip my wetsuit, which gets full of sand and becomes a hassle running back to transition. Lesson learned… will not do that again. I am covered in sand and frankly with all the room and soft, clean surface of the soccer field will wait next time. Total Swim time: 33:13


You get a little more running to the mount section then a short climb up to West Cliff Dr, where you zig-zag along the shoreline before exiting through the north section of Santa Cruz, which is nothing more than an industrial park. Once on Hwy 1, athletes are asked to use the wide shoulder of the road as it is open to traffic. Here there seems to be little affect from the wind, which typically comes from the northwest. At certain places, which were a bit more open you could feel it but not like I have in the past but it is early morning we’ll see if it helps coming back. Through Davenport at about mile 11 we head off the highway into the rolling pasturelands of the Santa Cruz mountain range… I’m glad I previewed this. It’s helpful when knowing where to conserve and where to push energy… There’s a good group of riders together and we’re about to approach the bottom of the climb. It comes up suddenly, a right hand turn and whoop! The road goes up! As I come around the turn I adjust my gearing for the near two-mile climb. The key, don’t go too hard. Just keep a nice rhythm on the pedals and soon we’re at the top. Signs warn about staying out of aero bars and I wonder how many will “go down” on this road and not just go down the road (there were a couple). Back on the highway we continue north, almost to the famous Pigeon Point lighthouse before we turn back. Now going south the pace seams a little quicker and at times the noticeable tailwind gives you a good kick… this time back you just stay on the highway and other than the rollers there is no more significant climbing. Looking at my watch, I’m hoping to get a 2:35-38 bike split… Back along the twisty turns of the shoreline, I make it into transition. Total bike time: 2:43:25


The run out takes you back out of transition the way you came in from the swim exit then up on West Cliff and run back though the industrial park onto a path that takes you out onto the Wilder Ranch Headlands. A scenic and fun little run… Well, not when it’s a half marathon. My pace going out was surprisingly quick and my heart rate was in check. The overcast made for nice running conditions and I found myself running through a lot of folks! Wow, this was feeling like old times. My first two miles were just under 7:20 pace and I never at one point ran slower than 8:07 pace. I knew that this was going to be a good run for me just simply because I kept wanting to push, even when it got tough. Going around the loop out on the headlands I caught up to a guy, who began to match me step for step and for the next 3 miles we ran side by side. He kept thanking me for pacing him. When getting back out to the road there is a little hill where at the top I no longer could hear his footsteps behind me and I looked back and he had fallen back considerably, but wait… another mile later he recovered came by me and now where my pace had fallen he began to make room in front. With a mile to go, I kept thinking, “hold this!” and thought about how good it was going to feel crossing the finish line. A quarter of a mile to go it’s literally all down hill and you finish on the sand. “Yes!” It’s over. Total run time: 1:41:46

Total Race: 5:05:53 – 7th AG

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