Syracuse 70.3, June 23rd 2013
I was privileged to have my number one fan along for my journey to Syracuse, my Dad! We drove up the day before and went directly to the race site. I instantly fell in love with the venue. The only other 70.3 I did was 70.3 Pocono Mountains in September 2012. This race was so much bigger, had a lot of vendors, food, and lots of athletes! After picking up my packet and visiting the Official Ironman store ( I spent too much money!) I went down to transition to figure out where my bike would be. Then I ventured down to the lake to scope out the swim. The first thing I noticed was the long run from the swim exit to the swim in. This was the longest T1 I have had to map out. I thought lucky for me my bike was right there from the swim in. The only downside was I had a long run out of T1 and a long run into T2.
I made sure to attend the athlete meeting because a very respectable triathlete that I know who did this race last year said that there would be a no passing zone within the last two miles of the bike course. He advised me to be aware of that and to make sure when I’m on the course to get ahead of the slower cyclists. I guess he had to learn the hard way the year before and was held back on the final stretch. During the athlete meeting the race director announced that this year they did away with the no passing zone but just to be careful because there will also be runners on the course too.
After the meeting my dad and I drove the bike course. Another great piece of advice I received and will pass along to other triathletes. Drive the bike course! Know where the turns, hills, declines, etc. etc. are. I could not believe the beauty that this course had to offer. I was in awe. I took mental note of the hills, I counted four with at least two of them requiring me to get out of the saddle. I was excited to get the show on the road after driving the course! I decided to ignore the run course entirely, I didn’t want to totally psych myself out for that! We drove to the hotel, got dinner and settled in for the night.
Race morning: I underestimated the morning traffic for this race. No idea why but it was never a thought that crossed my mind. I think I waited at least thirty minutes in traffic that morning. I rushed to transition to set up my gear with a little over fifteen minutes before transition closed. I headed down to the swim start just in time for the horn to sound for pro start. I put on my wetsuit, swim cap and goggles and jumped into the lake for a warmup swim.
The swim: 1.2 miles. Wading start. I made sure to line up in the middle of the pack and in the front. The horn sounded and off we went. I always start off quicker to get a comfortable spot in the water. At first it’s all a big herd, people kicking and splashing all over the place. I’m pretty sure I caught a few hands to the face. At one point I had lake weeds wrapped around my neck. I was a bit freaked out by that. Yes, even those swimmers who are confident and comfortable in the water get a little panicked at times! I was able to get into a comfortable position and settled into my pace. My goggles fogged up slightly but not like they normally do. Next thing you know, a lifeguard on one of the kayaks yelled at me to stay on course! I stop, pick up my head and look. I was swimming way wide and off course! I sprinted back towards the buoys and tried my hardest to stay as close to the buoys as possible. I made a right hand turn onto the next straight stretch of the course and kept plugging away. Swimming off course round two! I was thinking what the heck is going on? I NEVER swim off course. I knew at that point I needed to truly get my head in the game. I made the right hand turn for home and increased my arm turnover and kick a little. I didn’t want to blow out my legs on the swim. Being one of the stronger swimmers, I always seem to catch the slower swimmers (from earlier waves) approaching the finish. So the trampling and kicking and splashing seems to come back the closer I get to a swim finish. I remember jabbing someone point blank in the neck. Sorry! But what goes around comes around. I got kicked hard in the quad. OUCH!
I put my head down and kept my arm turnover up and swam as far as I could up to the shore, dug my hands into the lake bottom, stood up and ran out of the water. I remember thinking, wow that swim went fast. I looked down at my watch, not the greatest swim time, would have been faster if I hadn’t swam off course twice! Oh well, sweep it under the rug and keep on!
T1: The longer transition run didn’t bother me when I was actually doing it. I was surprised to see how many athletes were on the ground or standing to the sides and getting assistance in taking off their wetsuit! That was a first. I remember thinking, you are doing at half ironman and can’t get your own wetsuit off? I ran into the transition area, found my bike, got my gear on quickly and made my way towards the bike out. The run to the bike out was a little tricky because there were athletes in the aisles and on the ground, trying to put on their gear. It was an obstacle course with a bike!
The bike: As I stated earlier, I drove the bike course the night before so I knew what to expect. The first twelve miles of this course were all uphill. The best way to describe it is, a climb, followed by a semi-flat stetch, leading to another climb. Kind of like a shelf. I remember looking down at my average mph and it was SLOW! I was thinking oh no, there is no way I am going to do well on this course. But after those first twelve miles, the course had some great decents and flats. I put my legs to the test and pounded it out. It was hot and there were some crazy head and crosswinds. I felt like the wind was in my face the entire time. I knew that with as hard as I was pushing it, I had to make sure to take nutrition every 30-45 minutes and to hydrate! I slowed down slightly at every aid station and grabbed a water bottle. Half of the bottle was dumped on my head, chest, arms and legs and the other half I drank. I must repeat that the scenery on this course was awesome! At one point you are cycling parallel to a lake. Breathtaking. I was lucky enough to get a great shot of it!
I felt great the entire course and brought it home the last 10 miles for a better mph average than I had anticipated, given all the climbing in the beginning. On a side note, I should have kept count of how many MEN on the course complimented me on my color scheme. I just responded with “thanks! If you’re going to do it, do it in style!” And I have one more little bit of advice for dudes , do not wear a white tri suit. I know it’s supposed to aid in heat management. However, when you are soaked from sweat and biking in the aero position ahead of me, your suit is going to be see through. Yes, I saw a crack!
T2: The run in from the bike was an obstacle course as well. Some athletes just seemed to be in another world standing in the middle of the aisle. I remember yelling at one as I ran in. A female athlete who was behind me and about to head out onto the run was laughing and said how unbelievable it was that people were unaware of their surroundings. I racked my bike, threw on my running gear and out onto the run I went. Another decent T time for me.
The run: I had to mentally push myself through this course. I knew ahead of time that a.) it was a hilly one and b.) there were two steep hills that I would run twice. This run was a two looper. Great! I told myself to think of the course in terms of 5k’s. I would run four 5k’s and a little extra. Well, I didn’t even start my watch on the run and I’m glad I didn’t because the first two miles my legs felt horrible and it felt like forever. I remember thinking this is going to be a long day. The heat had started to take it’s toll. I passed a Pro female who was walking! I’ve never seen that before. The pain on her face said it all. I kept reminding myself, “one foot in front of the other, just keep moving forward.” Since I didn’t take note of the run course the day before I had no idea where to expect the first steep hill. I had a slight idea but I kept waiting for it. I passed the first aid station and went right down the line of volunteers and grabbed everything. Water, pour over head. Water, pour over head again. Ironman Perform, drink. Water, pour over head. Ice, dumped into sports bra and pants. Sponges, two in bra straps, two in hands. Keep on keepin’ on!!
Shortly after I was staring the first steepy dead on. I started to run up it and next thing I knew my heart rate was through the roof. I thought my heart was going to bounce right out of my chest! I decided at the point I had to walk the hill. I was walking the hill with pretty much every other athlete out there on the course. That pretty much became my routine the entire run course. 1.) Grab everything at every aid station. 2.) Walk every hill. 3.) One foot in front of the other. 4.) Keep moving!
Since it was a two loop course I was able to pass my Dad twice on the run course and a few other spectators that I knew. It was very uplifting! But I’m sure I made a lot of people laugh when I passed them. I was juggling a wad of ice in my bra and my pants, sponges in my straps and in my hands. A total overheated mess! I knew that in order to complete this run I had to stay as cool as possible. I had to just survive! Honestly, it was something about holding those cold sponges in my hands that seemed to get me through. Another great thing about this course was that there were spectators on course with water hoses! I ran through every one to cool off.
I have never heard so many people suffering on a run course. The grunts, screams, painful facial expressions, the amount of walking, it all truly told the story. I have also never heard so many people farting. The amount of gels taken in and the scorching heat I’m sure did not help. I couldn’t help but laugh everytime I heard the toots! I’m laughing now just thinking about it.
My run was not fast by any means, however I took the turn for home like I was an Olympic sprinter! I looked up at the clock as I passed under the finish line and realized that the clock read the overall race time. I started twenty-five minutes after the pro field. If my calculations were correct, I thought I had just PR’d on this course. And in fact I did. I struggled every step of the way on the run yet still managed to struggle my way to a PR. I thought how was that possible? This course was way more difficult that Pocono 70.3 and way hotter!
I have just recently finished reading Chrissie Wellington’s book, who by the way is one of my triathlon idols. She reads the poem “IF” every race morning. There are a few verses of that poem that sums up my day in Syracuse completely.
are losing their…
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you…
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it” - Rudyard Kipling