After grabbing my fourth ticket to Kona last November, I decided it was time for a change.

In the previous years, I really didn't want to mess with the status quo because it got me to Kona three times. And don't get me wrong, I love going to Kona but the thing I love the most about my athletics is the challenge. But the challenge of doing Ironman and qualifying for Kona has worn off.

With my 2013 slot already secured, I figured it was as good a time as any to flip this thing upside down and see where I end up.

In the back of my mind, I've always wondered if there would be any benefit to my Ironman racing by putting in heavy running mileage. With a little bit of freedom this year, I signed up for my first ultra which takes place on April 27th.

Continuing with the changes, I've also noticed a pattern of being race ready by May despite the fact that I'm typically setup for a late June Ironman. So I've gone a little easy on the bike. Some of it was intentional and some of it was much needed recovery from all of the extra running.

So far, things seem to be on track for what I think is going to be a really good year. The problem, which I discovered around February, is that I was completely unprepared for Oceanside whichI signed up for back in June of last year.

I was panic stricken. The timing was bad but prior to that, I kept saying, "I don't care.", "I don't care.", "I don't care." But all of the sudden, I CARED!

My swimming was decent and my running was awesome. Not a lot of top end in my running but I can run forever and I was somewhat confident that it wouldn't be my best but it wouldn't go horribly wrong. My main concern was the bike.

I'd been doing the bare minimum for bike work and by this time of the year, I'm hitting 100 milers and I'd have done a major DIY camp in Solvang which usually sees three hundred miles over a four day period.

Not this year. I've been seeing ranges which barely go over 100 miles per week and going into Oceanside with too few miles seemed like a bad idea.

Time to cram, I thought. With my new found motivation, I devised a bunch of trainer sessions which saw me spinning some wicked sets in the garage for hours across the entire month of March.

You can't hide from the trainer and to me it seemed like the best quality I could get with a limited amount of time. And it was, for sure.

As the race approached, I felt good. Not great, but good. Good enough to not embarrass myself. That seemed to be the goal. My perspective has since changed but you go in one end, out the other and sometimes you have a different opinion.

The trip down was typical. Long drive, some traffic and we eventually wind up in Oceanside . We did the packet picket thing and then went back to the same hotel we've stayed in for the past six years. We are creatures of habit, that's for sure.

The day before the race, I have a minor bike issue which had me driving around looking for my buddy Nick (bike mechanic) to rescue me. He does. All is well but the day is gone, I miss a workout but it's already time for dinner.

We eat dinner at the same restaurant we ate in the last few years and then we head back to the hotel room, settle in and go to bed.

For the first time since 2008, I can't sleep the night before a race. Bad omen. I don't like it and I start thinking. Thinking is dangerous, I know this and I try not to think. #fail

Too late, I'm screwed.

Meanwhile, the Mrs. is out cold.

I eventually get to sleep and I really don't think much of it because my expectations aren't high and I don't think this is going to change much.

Race morning, we are up early because we're concerned about the parking situation given the construction in downtown Oceanside but it turns out to be a non issue.We roll into transition and I'm cool. I don't know if I wasn't paying attention or perhaps people were calmer this year but I didn't run into any of the "agrgro" bunch to get me all wound up.

I'm always feeling rushed in the Oceanside transition area on race morning and I didn't want to get that way this year. Rather than lollygagging around, I stayed on schedule. I got my area setup, I hit the porto potties, I got body marked, I hit the porto potties, I put on my wetsuit, I hit the porto potties and then I got in the line with the other guys wearing the same colored swim cap.

I was in wave 10,000, again, and in order to kill the time for my midnight start, I chatted with everyone. Before I knew it, we were about to get into the water. And then things kind of clicked.

As I entered the water, I swam to the front of the line. When the gun went off, I pushed, I found feet and I got into the line that led off of the front from our wave. Not long after, we were starting to push through the waves in front of us.

This was probably one of my better swims. It definitely helped that the water was calm and the course was short but beyond that, I remained focused on the buoys and on finding good feet. The biggest obstacle was the number of bodies we had to plow through to get back to shore.

When I exited the water, I punched it to the top of the ramp and I moved fast down the carpeted aisle back to my transition spot.

T1 was probably about as flawless as it could be.

Out on the bike, I used HR as a guide more than power and I pushed the effort. I wanted to get away from as many people as I could in order to find some open road to settle into a rhythm.

I hit it pretty good for the first hour and then after that, it seemed less chaotic.

I think it was probably around that point when I finally looked down to see my average speed. Not so impressive but it didn't change anything. In fact, I seemed to be less emotional about the day while it was unfolding.  Before and after -- different story.

I continued riding by HR because I have a ton of historical data that shows me running well as long as HR averages X. X marks the spot because when I got off the bike, HR was exactly X.

T2 was uneventful and I was quickly out the exit and onto the convoluted run course. No, I don't think the run course is stupid at all. :/

Whoa! Slow legs. Usually I'm blasting the first mile and I'm trying to contain my speed. But ultra runner Vince has no speed. Ok, not true, I'm more like a diesel that needs to get going before you see the speed. This was sort of the case on this day. After a few miles, I started to bring the time down but it never got down to a pace where I could pull back in gobs of people.

Round and round I go and I eventually got to a point where I felt like I could lift it to the finish. Probably two or three miles out but I never felt like the wheels were falling off the wagon, I just knew that HR wouldn't go any higher and my legs wouldn't go any faster. It was definitely the product of running long and slow but my goal right now is to run an ultra, not a speedy half.

It is what it is.  

Coming in for my final approach, I saw my buddy Bas, gave him a pat on the back, said something (I have no idea what) and then continued on toward the finish.

I crossed the line, it was completely uneventful and as I went through to the other side, I realized I went through the entire day without looking at my stopwatch.

I race with a stopwatch on my left hand which tracks the overall time for the day and on my right hand, I wear my Garmin which is used for tracking HR, time and pace on the run.

I’m typically clockwatching the stopwatch. I will frequently do the math, play "what if" scenarios and in general, I make myself nuts during the race. But not this time.

In fact, I was so uninterested in the time that I forgot to turn off both my Garmin and my stopwatch.

It seems like I've made the transition from chasing time to chasing people. And for me, that's what Oceanside is really about. It used to be about time goals -- Sub 5, Sub 4:45, a PR but now it seems like the only thing I want to do is see top 5 or better and time is irrelevant.  I did not see top 5 this year. :(

0:28:34 Swim
0:03:42 T1
2:36:42 Bike
0:01:17 T2
1:33:07 Run
4:43:22 Total

137th Overall, 13th AG

Next up, Leona Divide 50 Miler! :)