We have had a crazy couple of weeks, hence my unintended absence from here…apologies.
Immediately after the Olympic tri, we headed out for a long backpacking trip. The backpacking trip tied into ‘taper week’ – does hiking with a 40 pound pack up to 13 miles a day count as tapering? Funny, it didn’t feel like I was training. At least not the race-specific training that I’d been so focused on for the past 19 weeks. But it’s not like I was sitting on a beach, reading. And I will fully admit that it was nice to do something that was active that wasn’t swimming, biking or running. The change of scenery was good too. Plus,it’s always nice to be out in the middle of nowhere where no one can reach you by cell phone or email or even the pony express.
We got back into town and had enough time to do a few last minute things – purchase last minute gear, last minute fuel and race day food, check in for the race, drive the bike course. 70.3 race day was yesterday for both hubby and me.
First, I will say this – from the get-go, I wasn’t entirely impressed with the race. It didn’t strike me as being very well organized and I didn’t get the impression that it was going to be very well supported. The shirt we got for doing the race was a baby blue sweatshirt, which my hubby was none too thrilled about… I will never understand why race directors don’t default to more gender-neutral shirts. As the race day progressed, I found more reasons to be unimpressed. For example, there were bathrooms and portapotties at the start. But throughout the course, options were woefully slim – just 1 portapotty on the bike (56 miles) and 1 portapotty on the run (13.1 miles). A learning experience, I suppose – we wanted to save a little money by doing a non-WTC, non-Ironman brand event, which I think in many cases is fine especially if the race is well-established and there are a decent number of athletes participating. However, this was a good example of getting what you pay for…
Anyway, enough venting and on to the actual race:
The swim was alright – nothing too notable here. The turnaround was not the halfway point, it was earlier, so the second half really seemed to drag. The waters were real murky and there were FORESTS of milfoil growing… every once in a while, some would catch my hand or ankle and kind of make me recoil a bit, but knowing what was touching me helped the jumpiness. A little. But I was in and out without incidence.
By the time we jumped on the bike, it was probably 80 degrees and climbing. Too hot too early. I knew temperature was going to be an issue and combined with my lack of faith in the level of race support, I was pretty concerned with having enough water to survive, let alone thrive. We’d heard that we should plan to carry at least 90 minutes worth. To ease my concern, we purchased extra bottle holders so that we could each carry multiple water bottles. We sent out with 2-21 oz bottles + 1 24 oz aero bar bottle – 1 bottle loaded with frozen Hammer Perpetuem (a 3 hour bottle) and one of the water bottles was frozen the night before as well. The aero bottle was loaded with ice only the morning of the race and filled at the first aid station 12 miles into the bike.
It was a long, hot, lonely bike course and as I suspected, not well supported. It was good that we had driven the course in advance as they did not have volunteers at each turn – only some of the course turns, so you had to be paying attention. At the turns were there were volunteers stationed, many of them were sitting in their cars, just tiredly waving their hand out the window. Who knows if most of the racers even saw them. I’m usually very appreciative of volunteers and I try to always thank as many as I can, but yesterday I remember thinking at one point, “Really? I’m out here biking 56 miles in the heat and you can’t even stand outside your car to make sure I go the right way? Just go home.”
I did a good job of hydrating – drank 1/3 of the 3 hour Perpeteum bottle and had Gus / Gels every 45 minutes. I also tried to drink enough water as well. I filled my aero bottle 2x on the course, but also finished with quite a bit. No cramps or fuel issues. Just mental stuff that had a lot to do with the fact that the course was so lonely. I’ll fully confess that I’m not the strongest biker. I have a lot of work to do on that front before Ironman next year. But I also wouldn’t consider myself to be a bad or poor biker necessarily, usually just middle of the pack… At one point in the race, I looked behind me and there was NO ONE. And I looked in front of me: NO ONE. And I thought, “holy crap, I’m going to be the LAST PERSON OFF THE BIKE!” How awful and depressing. It was totally demoralizing. Honestly, I lost some time off of it. I mean, I tried to laugh it off a little, thinking “well, someone’s gotta be the last person”. I tried to use it as inspiration. But honestly, I didn’t think it should or would be me! I didn’t see anyone for a good 15 or 20 miles, from about mile marker 30 to mile marker 45 or 50 when I FINALLY found the bathroom.
Being concerned about the water situation, I had hydrated-up the day before the race and the morning of the race. So even though I used the restroom before the swim, I had to go again by the time I hit 8 miles on my bike. Oy. I kept my eyes peeled for a portapotty, but none came. Mile after mile, came and went and NO PORTAPOTTY. I considered a pit stop along the side of the road, but it was lined with, well, a road (it was not a closed course), and also private property. I have heard that some triathletes just pee on themselves and wash it off, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that either. I tried, 30 miles an hour, down a hill, not moving my legs and just trying to focus on peeing… couldn’t do it. I have never been so happy to see a portapotty as I was to see that one after 45 miles of holding all that water! Yikes!
Aside from all of that – being lonely and having to pee SO bad, the bike course was mechanically frustrating for me – I dropped my chain half a dozen times, something that used to happen a lot, but hasn’t happened to me ALL year. It was ridiculous. And SO frustrating. Did I mention that?
The bike is my weakest link, so I was relieved to get off the bike (as I always am) and (finally) see people again! But by this point, it was 92 or 95 or 100 degrees out, depending on who you asked. And almost immediately, you could see the impact the heat was having on people. Fortunately, the one thing the race directors did right was to have an aid station almost every mile along the run. And they were well stocked with water, ice, spots drink, electrolyte tablets, and gels. I’m not sure I would’ve survived without all of the aid stations, honestly. Or at least I would’ve had to have walked the entire thing, which would have stunk. I wasn’t necessarily moving that slowly on the run, but I stopped at every aid station to dump water on my head and back, and refill my water bottle with ice and water which is time consuming over the course of 11 or 12 aid stations. I was able to run 95% of the course, but the heat definitely threw a monkey wrench into all of my plans for beating my previous time, even if by just barely.
At the end of the day, I crossed the finish line running and feeling relatively good. Relieved to be done. The entire ordeal took about 7 minutes longer than last time, but I know that the heat on the run course had everything to do with that. It could have been a lot worse. I was happy to have avoided cramping, bonking, crashing, and DNFing so I’ll chalk it up to a success along the road to the Ironman.