Ironman Steelhead 70.3 Pre-Race
As soon as I started swimming I thought ‘oh crap’, the water that appeared to be slightly choppy from the beach was much more than slightly choppy, and I was having trouble timing my breathing without having my head collide with a wave each time. Once I sort of got that figured out, I realized I also had trouble sighting because the waves would crest over my head and I couldn’t see ahead of me. Oh boy. Mentally I immediately switched into survival mode instead of race mode. I was worried I would feel panicky in my wetsuit with already feeling a little claustrophobic with the waves and sighting issue, so I wanted to take the pressure off and just focus on getting to the next buoy. So for the rest of the swim those were my short term goals.
I felt like I was making really slow progress and also kept getting pushed way left of the buoys on the way out, so I also felt like I was swimming horrible tangents too. Despite those frustrations I just kept focusing on moving forward and was SO VERY grateful this was just a half. A 2.4 mile swim sounded pretty awful. Soon I was turning past the final buoy for the last stretch back towards the shore. One of the athletes from STL I talked to before the swim mentioned that we should have a little current helping us back into shore and I definitely thought I could feel it as that stretch seemed to go by much faster than the way out. Finally I was close enough that I could touch the sand so I stood up and hobbled to the arches. I looked at my watch and saw 41 and though ‘Eh, that’s not as bad as I expected at all’.
As I ran through transition I hit my lap button to switch to T1, and it never changed on my watch, so I hit it again. I guess I was impatient and it was just slow to change to the next screen because now it was showing I was on the bike. ARGH. I was really aiming to have a fast bike split and was sad I wouldn’t know my exact time on the bike, so I stopped my watch. However then I realized I wouldn’t know my total time while racing, so I hit start and decided I would make note of time elapsed when I headed out of T1 and just subtract from the bike time. And really, no matter what my watch is doing, the race clock is still going…
I clumsily got my wetsuit off, quickly got my helmet, sunglasses and shoes on, I headed out of T1, clipped in and was off… but my bike computer was not. It wouldn’t sync with my watch. I spent time fussing with the computer while trying to settle into the bike, which wasn’t the safest thing to do, and finally after messing with it enough and realizing I wasn’t paying attention to the course, I took the computer off and stuffed it in my back pocket. I twisted my watch so the face was on my wrist like I usually do for races and just went with using my watch…. BUT, my power wasn’t working. Oh lordy. I sync’d it with my watch that morning, so I had no idea what the deal was, but I was using new pedals on this bike and it was the first time I was racing with them so who knows. They worked ok in training, maybe the battery died? I decided that at least I had heart rate on my watch and would go by feel. I had practiced racing at HIM pace the past few long rides so I knew how it should feel. At least my watch was working 🙂
So off I went, annoyed that I wasted a few miles fussing with my computer and watch and decided it was time to get some work done on the bike. I felt really good on the bike, the course had some smooth roads and some also crappy parts, the smooth I could really drop the hammer and the crappy I just tried to not get frustrated and also prayed to not get a flat. I was surprised when my 5mile splits (I keep the splits on my watch in race mode) were 20+mph. I usually go by power and was also going by heart rate, but seeing those splits was extra encouraging to just push a litttttllle harder. I yo-yo’d back and forth with another guy on the bike, joking that we would see the other person in a bit when when would pass the other and finally exchanged names. We gave each other friendly words of encouragement or humor each time either of us would pass the other, which added a little fun to the bike.
As I made the final few turns to head back to transition, I looked at my watch and after subtracting the 4ish minutes from transition I realized I was going to ride a 2:40ish split! Woah! I knew this was a fast course, but I wasn’t expecting to ride that fast! Hooray! I headed into T2 very very excited about my bike, and feeling like I put in a good effort but not too much that would fry my legs.. at least that’s how I felt, I would really know once I got on the run course.
Before I ran out of T2 I made the executive decision to give up a couple of minutes and hit the porta potty as I realllly had to pee. I struggled to get out of my one piece (the sleeves would not come off) but finally managed and then ran out half naked (well, I had a sport bra on, so not really, but that’s how it felt!) while I tried to wrestle my arms back into my sleeves. Once situated I tried to settle into a comfy running pace, knowing it usually takes me .5-1 mile to get really settled. Everyone was flying by me, but I stuck with my pace and after a mile I was settled into a 8:20ish pace.
We were really lucky with the weather, mid 70’s and a slight breeze, I told myself ‘you have to run hard today because you won’t probably ever get conditions like this again! No excuses today!’ And tried to keep sticking with that 8:20ish pace. I was a little scared to push to that little extra gear I thought I had because my stomach had been off since the bike. I wondered if it was from some of the lake water I drank accidentally during the swim, or was just from race nerves. Regardless, I really didn’t want to hit a porta potty for an emergency (apparently the sleeves on this kit are tough to get out of when soaking wet!) so I stuck with a pace that felt like a good effort for the day. However, at mile 9, my stomach was rumbling and I thought ‘uh-oh..maybe it will go away if I pulled the pace back a bit and running in the 9’s’
Yet even trying that my stomach was still angry and I knew I was going to have to make a stop, but I timed it horribly and the next aid station wasn’t until 1.5 miles….oh god. All I kept thinking during that time was ‘please hold on stomach, please hold on’. I finally got to the next aid station but didn’t see any porta potties and frantically asked a volunteer if the porta potties on the other side of the road for an earlier aid station were the only ones, and she said yes. So I ran off the course, down a little hill and up to the other aid station and made a mad dash for an open porta potty. Once again I struggled with the sleeves, made it as fast as a stop as possible, and dashed out half naked again.
On I trudged, annoyed that I had to stop with less than 3 miles to go (and ran a little extra to get there) but as I said before, it had to happen or something terrible would have happened mid run, lol. My pace had slowed and was in the high 8’s but when I made the turn for the 1.5 miles back to the finish, I had some extra pep in my step and ran it in as fast as I could without killing myself (which ended up only being an 8:30 pace). I ran down the finish chute, excited that I had a great bike and that I finished the run in under 2 hours (why I can’t run even remotely close or even 10 minutes slower than my half marathon times, really really annoys me) and was just very happy with how the day went, even with the rough swim.
Once I finished I found out that I had a 1ish minute PR in 5:32:12! The course I PR’d on was an easier course (a local one that had much shorter transitions and a very flat swim) so I was super happy. I went back to transition to get my bike and gear, and headed back to the car to check my phone and change clothes. I checked the official results and was 14th in my age group, I knew my time wasn’t competitive enough for top 5, but … you never know. Since I figured 70.3 Worlds slots wouldn’t roll down that far, I packed up the car and started the drive back to STL, as the six hour drive was going to be rough as is, and waiting around until 4p awards (it was 12:30 by the time I got back to my car) was going to make for way too long of a day.
I really enjoyed this race much more the second time, being fitter and having more race experience definitely added to the enjoyment, the cooler temps helped too! I am also thrilled to have knocked 40ish minutes off my time from 2016. I’m not sure what races I will do next year, but this one I will definitely come back to do again! In the meantime, I brought home enough sand that I will probably keep finding it until I race this one again, lol.
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You Rock, despite the troubles! Keep working hard!
Thanks Jamie! 🙂