Ironman 70.3 Florida was a fantastic race. Here’s my little recap (edit: it turned out to be not so little)…
I flew down with my dad and Becky on Friday afternoon. Traveling with all your race gear is a bit of a hassle, but fortunately I used TriBike Transport to get my bike there, so that was one less thing to worry about. The trip down was smooth and uneventful, which is always a good thing.
Saturday morning we drove the course before anything else. I always like to do this when traveling to a race where I don’t know the course so I can get an idea of what I’ll be in for. No surprises. After driving the course I went to packet pick up and got the registration stuff done. The village was awesome. There were tons of vendors selling merchandise and food and it was a really fun atmosphere. Everything was right at the park too, which was convenient. After registration I stuck around for the athlete briefing and then headed over to the TriBike Transport tent to pick up my bike. I swapped out my rear wheel and got the Zipp Super 9 on the back and headed out for a quick spin to loosen up the legs. About five minutes into the ride my power meter stopped working. I pulled over and played with it and my Garmin head unit to see what the problem was. I tried recalibrating it…nothing. So I continued on and finished up a quick ten miles and then went to get my bike checked out. Rather than stand in the long line at the mechanics, I went over to the SRAM/Zipp tent to see if they would check it out. This awesome guy named Carl was working in the tent and he checked it out for me. It turns out that on the bumpy road on the way out of town the magnet for the ANT+ signal for my power meter bounced off. Carl replaced the magnet and the battery for good measure and got everything all set and recalibrated for me. He told me to return the favor by getting a Zipp front wheel on the bike to replace the Reynolds. I told him I’m working on it. It was awesome service from this company.
After getting my bike ready I went and dropped it off in transition so I didn’t have to deal with it in the morning. I’ll do whatever I can do reduce the hassle on race day.
Then it was time to head back to the hotel, clean up, and go grab a pre race meal. We went to this little Italian place where we had eaten the night before and I went with my standard chicken parmigiana. It was the same thing I’d had the night before, but whatever. If it works, don’t try to fix it. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and I was laying in bed by 8pm. I slept for about an hour, then woke up for about three hours, and then slept for a couple more hours. I woke up on my own accord at 3:30am. I never sleep well before races.
I got to transition at 5am and did the normal once over check of the bike, topped off the tires, and set up my gear. It was pretty quick and easy as I had laid everything out the day before. I set things up, briefly rehearsed my transition approach, loaded on the sunscreen, and headed over to the water to get a good seat, because I was going to be waiting a while.
The male pros went off at 6:30am. My wave did not go off until 7:35am. Yuck. I ate my traditional blueberry muffin and banana breakfast about an hour before my wave and then took a gel down about five minutes before we hit the water.
The horn sounded and off we went. The water was a smoking hot 82 degrees and you could feel it. I started sweating early. The swim was in the shape of an ‘M’ with buoys on the right, which is helpful for me sighting because I breathe to the right. I did alright finding feet and drafting on the way out, but after that it was too hard because we swam in to the waves before us. It was crowded and a pretty physical swim. I took a few elbows and kicks so I generally tried to stay to myself and out of the groups. It was tough with all the corners though. I exited the water in just over 32 minutes, which is by no means quick, but it was my best half iron swim (not counting Poconos which I’m positive was quite short). I was 20th in my age group coming out of the water. Time to make up some ground on the bike…
I got through transition with no issues and had a nice flying mount (one of the volunteers even commented on it). I quickly got up to speed and got my feet in my shoes. The road right out of transition was pretty rough and there were some quick turns and little climbs, but after about two miles it got better. I went to work, but made sure I didn’t over cook myself. I kept a close eye on my power meter with a goal of keeping my power around 270, but not over. I knew with the heat I would need to save a little extra for the run. My legs felt good and the course was fast. There were a few technical spots where there were multiple, quick turns where you had to really be careful. And since I was in the 14th wave, there were also a ton of people already on the course, which was not ideal. I saw quite a bit of drafting and some really big groups that were hard to get around. It is a big frustration when I have to put on the brakes because people are riding three wide and I didn’t want to risk crossing the yellow line and getting a penalty. It is what it is though and I tried to ride as safely as I could within the laws of the sport. One of the funniest things that happened during the race was when I passed someone on one of the turns. If you’ve ever heard a Zipp disc you know it has a very distinct sound it makes as the air comes off it. It’s a loud “whoosh, whoosh” noise. As I passed this guy he looked over at me and said “That sounds awesome.” He’s right. It does. I ended up averaging 252 watts and 24.7 mph, which gave me a 2:16 bike split, and put me first off the bike in my age group. My nutrition on the bike consisted of one package of Clif Shot Bloks, three Powerbar Gels, five Saltstick pills, a bottle of Gatorade, two bottles of water (picked up from the aid stations), and a bottle of Coke.
I got my feet out of my shoes with plenty of room to spare before coming into T2. After my debacle at Flower City I made sure to be prepared this time. I hopped off my bike as I rolled up to the dismount line and ran into transition. It was another long run with my bike and I had a little trouble finding my spot because the tree I was using to help myself locate it had a twin that I went to first. I threw on socks and shoes, grabbed my race number and visor, and headed out to the run course.
I knew I was in for a little bit of suffering because the bottoms of my feet already hurt. I think I had a lot of sand on my feet when I put my cycling shoes on, so the constant rubbing while I rode had started to take its toll and gave me some blisters. The heat from the road and the soaking wet feet from all the water I doused myself with were not going to help the situation. Regardless, I went to work and told myself to run comfortably and not go out too hard. The run was a triple loop, which was nice because my dad and Becky got out on the course so I got to see them quite a bit. The run course had two pretty good hills in the first mile and a half of the 4.4 mile loop. These hills were destroying people in the heat. So many people were walking up them. I even saw a male pro (probably on his third lap) as I went up the first time that was staggering up it from side to side. They started 65 minutes before I did, so this guy was clearly tapped. I kept my salt intake up on the run to make sure my electrolytes were replenished by taking another salt pill at the start of each run loop, so three more total. At every aid station I had the same routine: water, Coke, water (mostly thrown on my face to wash off the Coke that spilled all over me), and grab as much ice as possible and stuff it down my shirt and shorts. I saw my dad and Becky for the first time about three miles into the run. They let me know at this point that they were pretty sure I was first off the bike. That gave me a little confidence boost and some additional motivation. As long as I didn’t completely blow up, I was getting a Vegas slot. Pace yourself. That’s what I kept saying to myself. Lap one was finished in 27 minutes and change, 6:22 min/mile pace. Lap two started with those hills again and there were lots of people on the road now because more people had finished the bike. It was getting hotter and people were suffering. I refused to walk at any point but I definitely slowed to an 8 min/ mile pace climbing those hills as I didn’t want to take too much out of myself. About half way through the second lap I saw Ali Rutledge, a TriSports.com teammate!
|Ali and I post race.|
I turned the corner and headed for the finish line, 98 percent sure I had won my age group. Since my wave was split in half, I had to wait five minutes to make sure no one from the second wave caught me. Time passed and no one came in, so with a time of 4:20:19, I won my first ever Ironman 70.3 age group. I ended up having the fastest bike and run splits, which was really rewarding for me and something I definitely would not have been able to do a year ago. I have been a strong biker for the past year in races, but I always gave up time on the run. Opening up my lead on the run shows all my work on that sport is paying off. I have to thank Steve Rosinski and Mike Hoffman for all the runs we’ve done together since January. Those two are phenomenal runners and have really pushed me.
After the race I took my shoes off to reveal some nasty blisters. Some were normal blisters with fluid, some were blood blisters, and some had already ripped completely open and were raw. Lovely. I drank some water, grabbed a Coke and a banana, and headed over to medical to get them cleaned out and put some bandages on. The medical tent people were great. They got me fixed up and on my way.
Eventually my stomach settled and I ate some real food while we waited to claim the Vegas spot. I got that taken care of and waited for the awards ceremony. I even grabbed a picture with women’s winner and top five Kona finisher, Mary Beth Ellis.
|Me with Mary Beth Ellis!|
Overall, this was a great event. Everything was well organized, the course was fast but challenging with the hills on the run and the heat, and the park had great vendors and food options for spectators. I signed up for this race with the goal of getting a Vegas spot early in the year and fortunately the day went my way and I was able to get that done. Thanks to Towpath Bike Shop and TriSports.com for all their help and support in my training and racing. They are both great companies.
Eleven days to Keuka…