Headed to Lake Stevens last Sunday for a half-ironman triathlon. The half-ironman distance is now being referred to as ‘70.3’ as this is the combined distance in miles of the swim/bike/run legs combined. I still like calling them half-ironman races since the term 70.3 doesn’t really mean much in my mind.
With just a couple of weeks of recovery from the White River 50, my legs were not sore but definitely were feeling tired in the lead-up to the race. My primary motivation for racing were to join a bunch of other athletes from my team, VO2 Multisport, and also to race what was sure to be a very scenic bike course (and one I rode in training a few weeks ago). The weather was also promising to be awesome, with temperatures in the 70’s with some cloud cover in the morning.
I like races where you can just roll up a few minutes – maybe an hour – before the start, register and go. This was NOT one of those races! By chance I was talking with a friend who was racing as well on Friday night (the race was on Sunday) and she mentioned that we needed to check in on Saturday. I had no clue since I hadn’t read any of the pre-race instructions yet, saving that task for the night before the race. Indeed, all athletes needed to make the drive up to Lake Stevens, check-in and drop off their bikes, then drive back up on race day! I drove up, took care of things and then returned back home for an early dinner, a short run and some stretching.
My race gear:
- Swim: TYR Hurricane 5 wetsuit, Blue Seventy mirrored goggles, DeSoto 1-piece triathlon racing suit
- Bike: Cervelo P3 w/ Williams Carbon Wheels (80mm deep), sunglasses (I didn’t end up using), race belt, Shimano shoes
- Run: Brooks GTS Racer shoes, visor
My nutrition plan was:
- Swim: nothing
- Bike: 250 calories/hr (2 packs chomps and hammer gel flask with 5 gels), 2 endurolytes per hour; one bottle water per hour (it wasn’t very hot)
- Run: 8 ounces of coke per hour; 8 ounces water per hour (at most….adjust depending on temperature)
My goal pacing was:
- Swim: take it easy, 35 minutes.
- Bike: stick to 140 watts on the first lap and 150 watts on the second (my FTP is 175 if you know what that means). this was a conservative plan, but again I wanted to be able to run strong. Shooting for 3 hours but the goal was to stick to the wattage plan and whatever time that resulted in would be fine. Hoped for a 3 hour or faster bike time.
- Run: first 5K 8 min/miles; next 10K 7:45 min/miles; last 5K 7:30 min/miles or faster. Time of ~1:40 or so.
- Total time: 5hrs 20mins (assume 2:30 transitions)
The swim went in waves – each with ~100 people. As such, the start was relatively calm. The course was simple, a long rectangle. There was also a wire running under the water (the buoys were tied to it) that you could follow to make sighting a non-issue. I never ended up seeing the wire once, since there were so many folks crowded around it. I just swam a little off to the side, and out of the crowds.
Sighting went well, floated in and out of drafts. At one point was kicked in the head pretty hard but shook that off and it didn’t slow me down much.With the wave start – was reeling in swimmers from previous waves. Came out of the water feeling good and had a feeling my time was decent (wasn’t sure of that, didn’t see a clock).
Started off the bike conservatively, letting my legs warm up and as usual a boatload of people past me. The course was a hilly 25 mile loop done twice (plus an out and back portion back to the transition area to make it a full 56 miles). I slowly built up to a steady pace, and closing out on my first loop, my power numbers were a little high (averaged 150 watts for the first lap). I wasn’t so worried about it since I felt very fresh and didn’t feel like I was pushing.
Throughout the bike I saw a bunch of friends who were also racing. Focused on nailing my nutrition and hydration and came off the bike with a time that was slower than expected, but my average watts were what I planned and my legs felt pretty fresh.
Came off the bike with 148 average watts (or so), averaged a little over 18mph with over 3 hours on the clock. Wasn’t so happy with the total time but other than that felt good.
Hit the porta potty and then started the run. Off the bike my feet (I’ve been battling plantar fascia issues for the past 5 months) hurt pretty bad. That was normal and I just took it easy for a couple of miles for my feet to loosen up. At one point, I stopped and took off my left shoe, convinced there was a rock in it…there was no rock…it was just the muscles in my feet all bound up! That stop cost me about 45 seconds.
After 20 minutes my feet relaxed and I was able to pick up the pace. My strategy of taking in 2-4 ounces of coke and then alternating with water at each aid station worked wonderfully well. I skipped a few aid stations since I felt well hydrated and didn’t want to overdo it. I am a huge fan of racing on Coke….the stuff is incredible and I’ve had no stomach issues using it for IMCDA, White River 50 or in this race.
The sun started to come out and I was dumping water on my head and staying cool, but felt good overall and after the first lap, picked up the pace a little. I also had to make a porta potty stop that cost me just over a minute of time. Next time I need to be sure about eating dinner earlier the night before and sticking to a liquid breakfast!
With about 5K to go, I picked up the pace again, running as hard as I could. With a mile to go I was really was going all out. I couldn’t have gone faster if a tiger was chasing me. I looked at my watch and realized that a sub 1:40 run split was possible if I really pushed. During the last few miles it became obvious to me that I should have pushed harder on the first lap. I left too much on the table again.
I cross the line totally exhausted but relieved to be done.
While I didn’t beat my time goal I was very close, and my splits were almost dead-on to what I wanted. Without my porta-potty stops (two of them) and my little shoe incident I would have been very close to my time goal.
The final score:
I learned a bunch of things in this race.
- Pay attention to your meals the day before and morning of a race. I was very relaxed going into this race. Since my previous few races were longer (IMCDA and White River), I really was totally relaxed and not one bit nervous for this one. As a result, I didn’t pay as much attention to my pre-race nutrition plan. The porta potty stops were totally preventable by eating a lighter dinner earlier the day before and having a liquid breakfast.
- At Ironman races they pass out skinny water bottles on the bike course, and these bottles slip right out of the bottle cage on my bike when I stand out of the saddle to climb! I never noticed this before, but lost two bottles due to this. I need to replace that downtube bottle holder with a Gorilla Cage.
- I stuck to my wattage plan on the bike, but probably left 10 minutes (at least) on the table. I should have pushed harder on the bike. I don’t think that would have affected my run.
- My first 10K on the run was too slow. I was being cautious, but I should have pushed the pace a little harder. I left a few minutes on the table there.