I’m having a hard time figuring out how to write this RR. I didn’t blog any training details beforehand.
Last year I did this exact race for my first 70.3. I trained well-ish. It was my first real foray into open water swimming. Turns out I’m a pretty okay swimmer. I spent a lot of time on the bike and got consistent with hitting 17-18 mph. Somewhere along the way I hurt my achilles/heel while running. I ran the race with an injured achilles and managed a 7th place in my AG while injured. 6:01:56
Well, that put goals in my head! I thought I could easily cut off 10 minutes from my time and get myself a 4th place finish and possibly top 3 if everything came together.
I trained for Ironman Florida 70.3, but got sick right before the race and bombed. My swim and bike were ok, but I had to walk 13.1 miles. Super defeating. If I hadn’t already signed up for Ironman AC 2022 I probably would have thrown in the towel.
Through winter I trained for the Boston Marathon. My achilles/heel were still junky. I tried to hit the Hal Higdon miles but I could never do the back to back Saturday/Sunday runs. I finally decided that I would go to the Tri group swim practices on Sunday morning and then follow that up with an hour bike trainer ride with a friend. Boston went amazing except for GI issues.
This all set me up to roll right into Tri training. I feel that I’m such a rookie/novice with Tri training. I printed out a 16 week training plan from Paragon Training but was immediately overwhelmed by the details. Z3 ladders, 78-86% of FTP, RPE 2-4? All mumbo jumbo.
I enlisted 2 friends (Nicole & Adrian) to ride with me on Wednesday and Saturday. Wednesday rides were approximately 25 mile rides and Saturday’s I set them to build - 30 miles up to 57 miles. We ALWAYS hit speeds around 18-18.5 mph. Our cycling trio just worked so well!
I swam once a week with the Tri club. I would usually leave CrossFit and be exhausted and wonder how I was going to swim for 35 minutes. The swims always went fantastic- except for sighting and swimming straight.
For running I organized one 3 mile group run during the week, ran long on Sunday and then did any speedwork that my CrossFit gym had in workouts. I crossfitted approximately 4 days a week.
Around week 7 of my training plan I decided that I really needed to be accountable to at least the mileage that was on my training plan. I started totaling the mileage in the corner and tried to run or bike approximately the miles/time. The swim I just swam 2000’ every week. I did not do one bike workout or run workout that was on the plan. No tempos, no intervals, no race paces. I just aimed for what I thought were appropriate distances.
During the taper (2 weeks before race day) I realized that there was a participant list. I was frustrated that I couldn’t sort the list to see who was in my age group so I made my own Excel spreadsheet and then…I researched the ladies in my AG. Lol. It was a great taper activity!! I quickly came to realize that there were 9 ladies I thought would be competitive and that I had a great chance at being in the top 3.
I picked up my race packet on Thursday because I was so excited! I received a low number- #55- because I had volunteered for the race a few days before. I asked if I would be able to run in a sports bra. That was confirmed. Yes!! It’s so much cooler when the wind hits your stomach.
The RD and Me:
I posted my bib picture on Facebook and someone told me to have “fun” at the race. I replied that if I do it right the race will not be fun AT ALL! Fun was training. For me racing would be “toeing” the line and putting it all out there. There was NOT going to be anything easy about race day.
I brought my bike back on Friday for the mandatory overnight bike racking. My bike is an upgrade from last year. It is tri specific with deeper race rims. I bought it 2nd hand from a friend in our Tri group. All that being said it is not one of those super expensive new tri bikes. Fuji Norcross Straight (pictured with OVAL on handlebars)
I listened to athlete briefing and then went and grabbed dinner with Nicole at our now usual spot -The Wonder Bar. I had fries with a bit of cheese and bacon on them and one beer. I really didn’t eat much. With all of my GI issues I have no idea what to eat.
I slept like a champ Friday night and woke up ready to go at 4:00 am. I had all of my gear and nutrition already in the car. Made some oatmeal and coffee and hit the road.
I set up my transition area, pumped up my tires and tried to remain calm until the start. It was a beautiful day with light wind and temps starting at 65* and going to 80*. The water was wetsuit legal at 72*.
Nicole who was volunteering got some amazing photos! (These pix are either hers or official race day photos)
We self seeded for the 1.2 mile swim. I put myself in the 35-37 minute group (swam a 36 last year) though I was hoping for faster time. I remained calm getting in the water. The water seemed good. I felt like I was swimming pretty well and straight!! We passed all of the yellow buoys and came up to an orange one. At the orange colored buoy we turned right. I was still swimming along and sighting but then realized I wasn’t seeing as many swimmers. Suddenly a lifeguard pulled up and said you need to swim out to that buoy. UGH!! OFF COURSE!!
I got right back to swimming and caught up with the pack feeling like it only cost me a minute or 2. Going around the buoys on the way back was challenging. It seemed like we would get stuck and not make any progress. On the swim back the course was still crowded. There was always someone I was trying to go around. I finally exited the swim and was devastated to see that the clock was at 43:00! 6 minutes slower than last year! Swim 42:58
The usual bay swamp face - ugh. With Mr Photogenic next to me.
I had a decision to make. Do I just throw in the towel? Or do I keep going?? I reminded myself that no Ironman is won on the swim and that I was going for top 5.
Keep your head in the game, Stark!!
I quickly trotted off to my transition spot. I was a little unorganized about what to do first. I decided to get the wetsuit off, dry my feet and put on my cycling shoes first even though the race director said to put on the helmet first. I unracked my bike, slapped on my cycling gloves, helmet and sunglasses. I rushed off to mount my bike at the bike exit. Gave Nicole a quick smile and wave and was off.
Transition includes an approximate .8 mile bonus bike ride not counted into your official bike mileage.
T1 6:37 (30 seconds faster)
The bike ride was a loop that you rode 2.5 times for a total of 56 miles. I knew I needed to eat AND drink on the bike. I was going to be out there for approximately 3 hours. I quickly got up to speed when we hit the AC Expressway and took 1 Gu. I tried to drink from my water bottle every mile or so. It contained blue Powerade. I remained calm, but kept up a good pace. I never took aid from the bike aid stations because I had read about so many crashes happening there last year. I talked to a few people as we made our way around the course. I pretended that my 2 cycling friends were riding with me.
I saw a couple of groups of guys who had the super expensive Tri bikes in pace lines - this is a HUGE violation. I ended up eating an approximately 200 calorie muffin on my 2nd loop (way too dry!) and 4 Clif Blocks on my 3rd loop. I drank ALL of my liquid in my front Speedfill container and a few sips from my 2nd water bottle. Bike 2:45:16 - 17 minutes faster than last year.
By the time I came into transition (with the extra .8 mile bike ride) I really had to use the porta-potty even though I only drank approximately 1 bottle of fluid! This is exactly the same as last year! (No, I don’t pee on the bike or in the swim.) I quickly changed into my running sneakers, put on my racing belt and hat. Told Nicole that I had F’d up the swim. I stopped at the porta-potty. Ugh!! A line! I waited maybe 30 seconds and finally a guy came out.
He said, “It’s disgusting in there!”
My reply in my head: “I don’t care. I’m on a mission.”
He was right - absolutely disgusting.
T2 8:11 (30 seconds faster)
I headed out on the run. This is really where the work starts. The swim is a warm up. The bike ride is a nice time drinking and snacking. Don’t get me wrong. You ARE working on the bike, but there’s a nice breeze and a beautiful view.
By the time you get to the run you are tired! You’ve already covered 57 miles! I reminded myself that I’m a runner. It’s what I do. As a triathlete I also know that running muscles are different than cycling muscles.
I took the first few steps of the run and my left adductor that had started to bother me at the end of the ride was in a world of pain. I thought “Uh oh!” Thankfully as I ran the pain subsided.
I had decided on a run/ walk method. I would run 1/2 a mile and then walk for 20-30 seconds. This method really works for me. I tend to run a bit faster and it gives my mind tiny increments that I know are possible. We ran 1 mile in the Ironman Headquarters at Bader field before leaving and heading down the street to the boardwalk. At the first aid station I grabbed a water. I couldn’t stomach anymore Powerade.
The boardwalk was HOT! Not a breeze to be found! I had no idea how I was going to be able to finish 12 more miles! I reminded myself to keep calm and take it 1/2 a mile at a time.
I ran down off the boardwalk into some blessed shade and my Tri group (Wild Harbor Tri) yelled out to me. One of the guys (Don) asked if I wanted ice as I went by. I backtracked and grabbed the cup of ice and threw it all in my sports bra. I also grabbed more water. I kept on trucking.
We ran down the rest of the boardwalk and turned around. It felt so good knowing the course from the year before. We ran out onto a fishing pier where a photographer waits to snap your picture. I was bunched up with 3-4 guys. One guy dead stopped in front of me! I didn’t straight arm him to get by, but it did cross my mind. Lol.
The fishing pier was my turning point (~mile 6). I finally felt like I was running well and wasn’t going to cross the dreaded red line. I switched to running from aid station to aid station (approximately 1.1 miles apart). I repeated the ice down the bra and water to drink and dump on my head. I took 1 Gu at mile 4ish and another around 8ish.
The miles were clicking off. We ran out and around The Pier (a big shopping mall that juts out into the ocean). This has a huge overhang so we were in the shade! My watch buzzed in with a 9:56. In my head I was like “Nope! Lost GPS. I’m moving WAY too well.”
I saw Nicole at this point. She was cheering her head off.
As I passed the next section I remembered a group run that a guy planned so we could run back and forth and listen to a Phish concert. It was great knowing distances and having fun memories!
I knew I had one more aid station before the final turnaround. I was feeling confident and ready to finish this. At the turnaround I considered picking it up, but was really worried about redlining. I decided just to keep consistent and push when I got to the Pier.
The last little bit is on the sand. A beach finish in super soft sand! Lol! Try looking graceful in that for race photos.
I charged up the finish line chute with everything I had left! So freaking happy to be done!
Run time 1:58:05 (almost 7 minutes faster than last year)
Overall finish time 5:41:06 (almost 22 minutes faster than last year). I was 5th on the swim, 2nd on the bike and 1st on the run out of female 55-59 finishers.
I was done. All I knew at that point was I needed something to drink - anything but water or Gatorade. Athletic Brewing was on hand.
Nicole found me and told me where they were cheering and ran off. All I could think was that I really wanted to go sit in the ocean, but I didn’t think I’d be able to find them again. I staggered around for a bit, drinking my non- alcoholic beer and then reunited with the group.
Another friend who had been tracking me came running up and gave me a hug. I was like “ummm probably shouldn’t do that because I am beyond disgusting!”
He said, “I’m so happy for you! I’ve been tracking you all day, Champ!”
Me: “Thanks! So happy to be done!”
Him: “You crushed it! I can’t believe you are number 1!”
Me: “I’m sorry….I’m what????!!!”
Him: “You’re number 1!”
No freaking way!
At that point I had a decision to make. Am I going to accept the slot to Ironman 70.3 World Championships or am I going to pass?
Well, as the RD said to me “You don’t know if these things will ever align for you to win again.” So YOLO!
I'm going to Lahti, Finland for Ironman Worlds in August, 2023.
So many questions:
do I need a new bike?
do I need a coach?
what’s the best long sleeve wetsuit?
what bike trainer should I buy?
Fun little tidbit: an elite racing company reached out to me and asked if I had any sponsors.
For Lahti I will try to figure out the workout terms on the training plan!
RACE FOLLOW UP: Thank goodness I didn’t let the swim get to me! Everyone’s times were approximately 10 minutes longer than 2021. Many people said the current was rough and others said the course was long. Learning moment: trust your instincts - if you felt your swim went well ignore the time! No 2 swim courses will ever be the same!