2012 Steelhead 70.3 Race review

Exactly 24 hours before the race on course for a final tune up.

I arrived by myself in Benton Harbor Wednesday night so that I could get a few workouts in on the course before the race.  I got up early Thursday morning and did my last taper workout and then went and drove the whole course.  It’s a little intimidating b/c it seems to take forever just to drive the 56 mile course.  Then I rode the 6 or so miles of the run course (it’s a hybrid 2 loop course). The weather was nice and cool, the course was great, and I was tapered and ready to take the race on.

The swim was cancelled last year b/c of the weather, so I was concerned since the rip tide warnings had been flashing all week.  The forecast still looked good for Sunday though.

Friday, I took the whole day off and rested.  I tried to pack up my bags and plan for Sunday morning. Did some reading of slowtwitch forums as well as studied my race plan.  I just tried to pass time waiting for my wife and in-laws to arrive later that night.

Speaking of my race plan, here’s what I planned to do this race (only my second half iron):

Swim – Stay wide of the pack and dolphin dive until the water deepens enough to swim.  I wanted to find some feet and follow them for as far as possible.  I planned to take the swim easy so that I had plenty of energy for the bike and run.

T1 – I planned to rush through T1 as much as possible.  In T1 I wanted to take down 1 gel.

Bike – I don’t have a power meter (yet), so I was racing on HR.  I planned to hold right around 155bpm.  I knew through my training I could easily hold that and have plenty left for the run.  On the bike, I planned to take a gel every 30 minutes with water.  Between gels, I’d sip on gatorade and water as needed w/ the intent of finishing 1 bottle of gatorade and 2 bottles of water.

T2 – Once again, run through the whole transition area and drink as much of my bottle of coke as I could get down quickly (and I had a provisional salt tab if needed) before heading out onto the run.

Run – I knew from training that I’d come out faster than I should, so I wanted to watch my pace at the start and intentionally hold back.  I planned to hold back to around 7:15-7:30 per mile for the first 4 miles and then pick it up if my HR was still below 160.  For the rest of the race, I’d hold around 160 and then after mile 10 or so, it’s all downhill, so I’d push a bit more if anything were left and finish strong.

Those were the plans.  I’ll tell you in just a minute how well I held to them.

As Saturday came along, the winds calmed, I took the family around town and showed them the race course as well.  We found an awesome little Italian place off the beaten path called Tosi’s restaurant.  It was busy, but we got in and out relatively quickly so that I could get home and get to bed early.  Dinner was eggplant pie.  Back to the hotel and one last check over all the equipment.  Bedtime was 9:30.

I had no idea, but on Sunday almost nothing would go as planned.  Thankfully the race went fine, but just about everything else didn’t.

When the alarm went off at 3am, I quietly got up and drank my 3 ensures, ate a banana, and a bagel. Then I crawled back in bed for another 2 hours of sleep.  Now the scary part starts.  My alarm to get up for the race, doesn’t go off.  It’s supposed to be set for 5:10am.  Around 5:30, I lean over and look at my clock.  With a jump, I hop out of bed and freak out just a bit.  WE’RE LATE!!! Thankfully my wife is very calm and tries to tell me it will all be fine.  Since my glycogen stores were topped off at 3am, I had quick breakfast of a banana, oatmeal, and another bagel as we rushed to get ready and hustle out the door.

We fly down to the race start and thankfully parking was set up very well and I was able to get over the the transition area within a few minutes of my ideal time.  I ended up having plenty of time to set up my transition.  The major problem that I quickly realized was that I couldn’t find my Garmin.  I know I had it in the hotel, but it wasn’t in my bag anywhere.  I had a plan B.  I brought my wife’s watch, so I tried to set it up and pair it to my HR monitor quickly.  At least I had a way to view my HR, pace, and time.  That could have been a major mistake for me, but once again it was my wife that calmed me and told me it would all be fine.  And it was.

With the transition set, I put on my shoes and we all took the long trek down to the south end of the  beach to the swim start. It’s a point to point swim with a beach start.  Since my wife is with me, I take my wetsuit in a bag and I wear shoes down there.  The pro men start the race at 7:00 and my wave doesn’t go until 8:05, so I have plenty of time to make my way to the start.  At the start, I did a short warm up jog, short warm up swim and I was off at 8:05.

The Swim

Short Version: Goal 30:00, Actual 34:40

After a few dolphin dives (note to anyone doing this race, the start is very shallow for a ways), I was on my way.  I had planned to breathe every 4th stroke until I was forced to go down to 3 or 2, but I started off at 2 and had a hard time backing down, so I stayed there.  No problem.  I felt like I swam strong, but the info page showed the currents to be moving slightly against us that morning  (there’s a pretty cool site to find this info: http://www.glerl.noaa.gov/res/glcfs/currents/).  I suppose this may be why my swim was slower than expected b/c I felt like I swam well, but such is life… I moved on to the bike and forgot about it. 🙂

Up out of the water and up the embankment through the deep sand to T1.  I moved OK through T1 I felt, but it’s the longest transition area I’ve ever seen, so it took a bit.  Plus the deep soft sand was a real bear to wade through after coming up out of the water.  I was so out of it that I ran right past my bike and my wife (who was running outside the transition area alongside me) had to tell me to stop and go back.  T1 didn’t quite go as planned due to the unexpected slog through the sand, but I was still Ok with it.  I lost about 30 seconds or so.

The Bike

Short Version: Goal 2:22:00, Actual 2:22:21

I hopped on the bike and got moving pretty quickly.  After a few hundred feet, I got my feet into my shoes, settled down, and started to pick the pace up a bit.  I know from past data that my HR tends to drop from the swim across about 30 minutes.  So, the first part of the bike was ridden by feel and I started to watch my HR about 10 miles in.  I settled in nicely right around my goal HR and was very comfortable.  I wasn’t pushing too hard, but had a nice quick pace.   It was a nice cool day (upper 60s), so I didn’t have to take down as much water as normal, but I got about 30oz down along with a gel every 30 minutes.  There were a few rough patches that lasted several miles, but the course is relatively easy compared to what I normally ride, so I held a good speed through the course and my avg HR was actually just a shade low. But, I was very pleased w/ the ride.  Nearly 24mph when I got off the bike.

Riding down the final stretch into transition, they make you ride across the boardwalk.  I have no idea why they do this as the road right next to it is closed and would have been much safer and smoother.  I hope they change this in the future.

T2 went well, I came off the bike minus the shoes and ran all the way down to my bike slot.  This time I had a bit more energy and was more alert.  I outran my wife to my rack spot.  I put the bike and helmet away, took a swig of coke, pulled the shoes on and I was on my way.

The Run

Short Version: Goal: 1:40:00, Actual 1:42:36

I had planned to take the run out easy for the first 4 miles, then pick up the pace a bit if I could in order to bring my HR up to target if it was still low.  Then the last 3 miles, I’d give whatever was left.  The run started right around 7:30s and I felt great. It was effortless, but I really had to pee.  So I stopped at the first aid station and took care of that.  I lost a bit of time, but it was only 30 seconds or so.  Back out on the course and the sun started to heat up as the clouds faded away.  There’s a decent amount of shade on one part of the course, but most of it you are open to elements and it did get a bit warm, but nothing too concerning.  I held a pretty constant pace and didn’t walk for the first 3 miles or so.  After that, I would walk through each aid station just long enough to get my calories down and then I’d run again.  I alternated between water/gatorade and coke at each station depending on how I felt just before I arrived there.  I kept myself cool and had enough energy that I was able to hold my running pace around 7:30.  Add in the walking time at each station and the bathroom break and I finished at about 7:50 per mile.  I can’t complain.

Total race time: Goal sub 5:00 (maybe even 4:40?), Actual: 4:45:17

What I learned from this race:

  • I still have work to do on the swim.  I’m losing major time to the faster guys in my age group here.
  • I’m further behind on the run than I thought.  My run has become my limiter.  I was slower than every person ahead of me in my age group on the run.
  • Although I never bonked or dehydrated, my stomach locked up so I have some nutrition work to be done so that I can finish with a settled stomach.

I was very happy w/ the result especially considering what all went on prior to the race.  However my day of fun wasn’t over.  We still had to drive back home.  So, we hitched the car I drove up to the RV that my in-laws drove down and headed home.  As the sun dropped, we realized that the taillights of the car we were towing weren’t coming on.  So, we pulled over to check and found 3 blown fuses and no spares.  There was no way to fix the problem correctly.  But, we had an idea… If we turn the car on, and turn the lights on (we’ve tried running the lights when the car was off before and it killed the battery in no time), then we’d have running lights at least.  So, we did that.  As we pulled over to check on the transmission and make sure we weren’t harming the car, we found out that the car would self-lock when it reached a certain speed.  Great.  So now what do we do?  Call Onstar.  No good.  The car isn’t registered w/ Onstar and they can’t turn it on.  So, we drive all the way home as we contemplate what to do.  My bike and all my gear also happen to be locked in the car.

We finally get home and call AAA and they come and break into the car for us within 15 minutes.  Whew!  Crisis averted.  The day was finally over and I could go sleep in my own bed.  it was a good day afterall.


Posted on August 20, 2012, in Race Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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