Harriman 70.3 - Race Report

"Holy Hell"

Every triathlon that I race I have a game plan for.  Initially my plans were just to finish.  Then they began to evolve as my passion for this sport grew.  No longer would just finishing be my top priority, my goals became specific and were related to time/splits.  Meeting these benchmarks gave validity to my efforts and fitness levels.

Leading into this season I have the loftiest goals to date.  I know that I can be a sub 5:30 athlete.  I fully expect to complete the swim in 35 minutes if not faster, complete the bike under 3 hours and complete the run under 1:50.  I'm not sure how many athletes would actually disclose their goals like I just did, and I can't believe I just did but, I feel that it will hold me more accountable for my actions.  Do I expect to achieve this time at every race, no, but I will when I reach peak condition.

Leading into Harriman 70.3 I had written down specific times/splits for the race and had a game plan on how to achieve them.  Matt, my coach, also had provided me with a game plan to be successful during this race.  I wanted to swim better than 38 minutes, my previous best time.  The plan was to bike as close to 3 hrs as possible and then run sub 2:00hrs on the run.  I know these times would not achieve my ultimate goal however this was not an "A" race for me and my first half in two years.  This race was put into my schedule to shake the cobwebs off, check my fitness and to get back into the game.  These splits would be good enough to smash my previous best time.

The weather for race day was beautiful; calm winds, warm temps, blue skies.

The swim was 2 laps around a triangular shaped course in a fresh water lake (Lake Welch)  There would only be one wave for the 70.3 distance because of the small amount of entrants.  The start of the swim was scheduled for 9:00 (very late)  My game plan for the swim was to start in the front, stay with the lead group for the first few hundred yards and then fall into rhythm.  The horn sounded and we were off.  I was about 20yrds behind the lead group as we came to the first turn.  As we turned i knew the real swimmers would take off and the triathletes would fall into line.  No sooner did we make the first turn then the swimmers were off and I settled into my rhythm.  The second turn approached and my shoulders started to burn as result of the restriction of my wetsuit.  The sensation was anticipated since it was my first time in a wetsuit in about 9 months.  I decreased my effort level slightly in an attempt to promote blood circulation in my shoulders to decrease the lactic accumulation.  By the end of the first lap I was feeling confident and positive yet was unsure about my pacing.  Was I going too fast, too slow, just right?  The second lap went OK until I approached the last and final turn of the swim. This was where my stroke strangely began to fall apart.  I immediately started to think that I was slowing drastically and needed to do something quick. I decided to shorten and increase the turnover of my stroke.  Thankfully this got me back on track, at least mentally.  The goals for the last few hundred yards was just to hold it together and slow the bleeding because I would make the time up on the bike. As I exited the water and began to unzip my wetsuit I immediately felt something troubling, my legs felt extremely heavy.  I have no idea why and chose to forget about it and just hustle over to transition.  As I crossed the timing mat the clock said 41:00. Damn, I just had a horrible swim.  Thankfully we were later informed that the clock was started about 4 minutes early so in reality my time was closer to 37 minutes which would mean a new PR for me.  I'm satisfied with a 37 minute swim because I know that as I can get into the open water more my times will drop big time.

This year I have switched up how I carry and mount my hydration and nutrition.  As a result I knew that my transition time would be slightly off.  I'm not sure what my time was but I'm guessing it was around 1:35-40.  This is too slow but now that I have a trial run underneath my belt I will be able to make changes and get things dialed in.

Heading out on the bike I was in great spirits and was very ready for the bike.  I have put in alot of work this off season and have biked this course before so I wasn't expecting any surprises.  The bike was 4 loops, each loop was 14 miles.  This course was tough being that you were either climbing or bombing down hills, there was no flat sections.  The highlight of the bike was a 2-3 mile downhill followed by an very dangerous  U-turn into a climb right back up those 2-3 miles.  Out of transition I pushed the downhill and immediately passed people.  I have zero fear going down hills which I feel is a strength of mine.  As I started up the climb I settled into my prescribed wattage and effort and began to take in nutrition.  I planned to be on the bike for 3 hours so my nutrition plan was as follows.  200 calories/hour and one water bottle per hour.  The calories were coming from Ignite Naturals Reload Energy Gels and the hydration was compliments of NUUN. During the climb people were passing me which I fully expected.  I was going to stick to the game plan and reel them in slowly throughout the bike.  My initial body check on the bike was slightly unnerving.  My hip flexors were on fire.  I chalked it up to being excited and just having an initial pump from the climb.  I also noticed that my cadence was slower than expected which I chalked up to trying to stick to the correct wattage.  Overall my wattage was slightly high, I was in a great place mentally and ready to have a great day. SIDE NOTE: I shockingly saw Matt at the bottom of an early hill, off his bike.  Turns out his handlebars became twisted and was waiting for SAG. About 15 minutes later I saw him hauling ass, this kid was about to crush it.  I figured in about 30 minutes he would pass me. The first lap took me just over an hour? Hmmm, I guess that's alright since one of the goals was to negative split the bike.

The goal for the second lap was to stay focused and really try to spin my legs out on the long down hill.  Hopefully this would flush out/wake up my legs. At the start of the second lap I increased my effort and picked up/dropped off a water bottle.  My cadence continued to feel labored on the climbs, which started to worry me.  These climbs certainly shouldn't be feeling this tough and my cadence should certainly be alot higher.  As the second lap progressed my effort level was increasing yet my wattage was dropping, this wasn't a good sign.  I believe the time for the second lap was about the same for the first.  2 hours for 2 laps, SHIT.  My nutrition was based on 3hrs, this was not good.  As I started the climb on the third lap I was mentally ready to charge and get after it but . . . my legs thought otherwise. The lightest gear felt the heaviest, my cadence was abnormally low, my legs just would not fire.  So here is where I rewrote the game plan.  The new plan was to decrease my effort, drastically increase my cadence hoping once again to jump start my legs.  If that doesn't work then I just need to continue to spin through the bike because I still had a run to do.  SIDE NOTE: Still hadn't seen Matt?

The final 2 laps on the bike nothing changed for the better physically.  I did however embark on a serious mental battle.  Alot of things run through your head when things are down; should I quit? Am I good enough? Why do I do this? I could be spending time with my wife, utter embarrassment, failure etc.  For some reason most thoughts are negative and crippling. It is at this is exact moment when you need to make a choice.  Harp on the bad and make things worse or get busy making things better.  Most athletes would throw in the towel based on how I felt and what I had left to do.  I knew that I could turn this race into a positive experience if I pushed through to the end.  I "charged" forward, determined to finish.  I completed the bike in 4 hours!? For the last hour I didn't take in any calories.  Instead of taking in the planned 3 water bottles I took in almost 8! I was so relieved to have completed and be off the bike now I just needed to bang out a quick run, haha.

I moseyed into transition in surprisingly positive spirits.  I racked my bike looked at my running shoes, took a deep breath and for some crazy reason thought that I could still salvage this race.  I still could bust out a solid run.  That was all the motivation I needed. I grabbed my visor and race belt and made my way onto the run.

Right out of transition I grabbed three cups of water, two for my head and one to pound. I started to jog and just wanted to get my feet moving.  The goal was to establish a quick cadence and not worry about the pace.  For some reason I still honestly thought I could make something of this race. My feet were able to get moving and my pace slowly, very slowly, started to increase.  About a mile, mile and half, into the race I tried to go to the bathroom.  My urine was the color of Killians Red beer, this was NOT GOOD.  I already knew I was very dehydrated but now it certainly confirmed.  I needed to get to the next aid station ASAP and put down as much liquid as possible or else things were going to get ugly.  The aid station was atop of a hill and I immediately grabbed whatever I could and either swallowed it or poured it on my head.  Now that I had liquids in my system I wanted to get back at it.  Somewhat annoyingly I had taken in so much water, that it was sloshing around in my stomach making it uncomfortable to "run".  So I decided to jog walk until I absorbed some of it.  For the first lap of the run I made some headway and truly felt like I could get things going again.  I continued to take in as much fluid as possible at each aid station.  SIDE NOTE: I finally saw Matt at the beginning of the run, he was apparently having a similar day.  The second lap of the run was a struggle and had to start to playing games.  I would pick different land marks (cones, telephone poles, turns, etc) and jog to them then walk to the next one.  I needed to break down this run into super small, manageable segments.  I figured that if I was able to string enough of these together I could get into a rhythm and still make the best out of the run.  As the day dragged on the course became lonely and desolate.  The amount of runners were dwindling, the aid stations were lacking and the sun was on its way down! haha. As I came around the final bend the parking lot became visible and it was empty. I just started laughing.  This race took me so long to finish that everyone had packed up and left.  I finally crossed the finish line, "HOLY HELL".  It just took me 8 hours to complete this ironman, I mean half ironman.

A HUGE thanks to the Wontz's for hosting me for two nights as well as supporting Matt and I for the entire race.  Much love and respect for Jess for driving up to the race that morning then cheering us both on until the end.


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