Ironman Syracuse 70.3 – The race from hell
Ironman Syracuse 70.3
70.3 Miles (1.2 mile swim – 56 mile bike – 13.1 mile run)
June 22nd 2014
Jamesville, NY (Syracuse)
I have angered the race gods. I’m not sure what I could have done, but they are upset, and I have felt their wrath. This was a fun race despite the universe conspiring to make it miserable for me.
The hell –
Everything was going well leading up to the race. This was a soft-B race and my first triathlon of the season (and 2nd tri overall), so I was using it to test out nutrition strategies. On a training ride the Tuesday before the race, my heart rate was significantly elevated. I thought it was odd, but I did have an espresso that morning and had felt like my heart was racing. “No caffeine til after race day” I told myself. Wednesday my swim was harder than it should have been, and my heart rate was astronomically high on my run. I’m by no means a blazing fast guy, but I can regularly put in miles in the 6:00’s when I go really hard. As a test, I went hard for a mile… 8:17. Yeah. Not good. I took Thursday off hoping for something to give. Friday, the day I was to head the 5 hours to the race location, I was still elevated, so I held off my trip to Syracuse. I did a test swim and run to similar but better results, and then I started having chest pains.
“Am I going to be that guy in good shape that dies suddenly of a heart attack?”, I thought to myself. After a couple hours of waiting and monitoring my vitals, it was time to head the the hospital to make sure nothing serious was going on. It’s amazing the emergency room attention you get when you stroll in and are like, “ahhhh… My heart has been going crazy this week, and I had chest pains earlier” After an EKG and a lot of blood work, a heart attack was ruled out. The doctor theorized that it was an adverse reaction to the pseudoephedrine in some allergy medication I took Tuesday and Wednesday. He didn’t know when it’d clear out of my system, but he said I could race. I just had to pull myself if my heart rate got too high or if I experienced more chest pains. I got out of there at midnight Friday night. Great. I should have been asleep at my hotel in Syracuse. I’m not going to die though. That’s kind of important. It was definitely a scary experience.
Leaving Saturday was a blur of getting all my gear together. I left to head to the race figuring I probably forgot something and wondering if I should even go. On the way there, some luggage fell off the roof rack of somebody’s car right in front of me. I ran over it at 75 mph. By the sounds of it, it partially tore a heat shield off something on the bottom of my truck. I almost turned around right there. After athlete check-in, I got back to the hotel to prep my gear. Doh! I forgot my race belt! I’ll have to waste time in transition 2 pinning my bib to my tri suit… aaaaand I didn’t have any safety pins. Luckily my hotel front desk saved me some trouble there.
I wish my race from hell was only during pre-race, but I had a couple bad luck race moments too. I get out of the water, grab my bike in transition, and start running to the bike out. My bike sounds funny and I look down to see I have a flat front tire. What the hell. It was fine just hours before as I was setting up transition. I’m not sure if it was gamemanship or over-inflation. Anyway, I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off to find a pump because I didn’t want a tire at a randomly inflated pressure from a CO2 cartridge for an entire race. I find the Bike Loft mechanics and grab a pump to run it to my bike. I get to my bike, and I realized the mechanics could do it a lot quicker and more importantly better. I ran back wheel in hand to have them change it out. They did quickly. They saved my butt here. Still, I was looking at 17:00 transition due to the problems.
sitting pretty with both tires inflated the day before the race.
“There goes my 5:45”, I thought. Going into this race, I wanted to do around 5:30-5:45 playing around with pacing strategies. After the heart issues, I bumped that up to 5:45 since I knew I wouldn’t be able to push very hard. Now with the flat tire snafu, I figured I could still make sub-6 hours and paced myself for that out on the course. Final time: 6:00:01. Just about as close to a sub-6 as you can get without accomplishing it. One last slap in the face courtesy of the race from hell. Ha! Onto the good stuff!
The swim – 33:56
The swim was a single clockwise loop with the entrance and exit nearly side-by-side. I think the bonus here was not wearing a heart rate monitor (HRM) during the swim, so I had no idea how high my HR was. My goal was a sub-35:00 and to practice drafting. Mission accomplished on both of those. Thanks to the other age groupers that dragged me around this swim course. The swim course itself was the worst part of this race. I’m a clear water guy. I’ve been dumped into nasty places as parts of events, but I’d never willingly choose to. You aren’t more than ankle deep in the water before you can’t see your feet, and there are weeds floating on top of the water’s surface that liked to get caught on your shoulders and head.
It was pretty uneventful minus the typical triathlon swim jockeying. I did get snap kicked straight in the face about half way in by a guy breast stroking that I didn’t see in time. You couldn’t see too far in any direction, and all of a sudden, WHAM.
Transition 1 – 16:52
The transition was a decent run out of the water to the bike area. I think I was around 2:30-3:00 when I noticed my flat. Them’s the breaks… or the flats.
The bike – 3:02:45
This was a great, single-loop bike course. It starts off with a short descent into Jamesville center before beginning a sustained climb almost up to mile 12. The grade of the climb is steep only in small sections. Most of it low-grade and not too strenuous. I’d recommend weak cyclists (like me) use a climbing gear for it though. I had 36×28 on my bike, and I think that allowed me to save my legs a lot. There were a few more steep climbs after mile 12, and each time I just threw it into 36×28 and spun past people that were churning away. After the first 12 miles and outside of a few steep ascents thereafter, it was time to sail. I put in the fastest 5 mile split I ever have on the bike on this course. I maxed out at just about 50mph before my remembered flat tire freaked me out a bit making me feather my brakes. I couldn’t help wondering what it would feel like to hit the pavement at 50 mph. I’m glad I didn’t find out.
The streets were good quality and the surface wasn’t bad, and when you took your eyes off the road, you were welcome to some great scenery. We went through mostly farmland, so it was just bright green fields surrounded by hills covered in dark green trees topped off with beautiful blue sky. I tried to enjoy the views as much as I could. The only annoying part of the course was the “no passing zone” from mile 53.5 to 55 or so. Some people can be really fading in the end, so you miss some good passing opportunities. I also got stuck behind a slow guy. The guys in my age group that I had leap frog’ed with much of the day got further and further away as I was gliding behind this guy that was churning away. I imagine it stunk for that guy too. No doubt he felt the pressure of us at his back hearing those hubs spinning, so he probably was going harder than he would have otherwise. That could easily blow up his legs for his run.
I was happy to see my HR was behaving much better than earlier this week. It was still about 7 bpm higher than normal, which caused me to lay off a little bit, but it never got scary high. My goal was a sub-3:00:00 bike. I came pretty close to that all things considered.
Transition 2 – 3:30
It was slowed up having to pin my bib number onto my suit.
The run – 2:02:58
This was perhaps the most surprising thing of this course. Surprisingly difficult. I’m a runner, and I prefer running hilly trails. That’s what is on this 2x out-and-back course. Almost right away you are on dirt and grass on a steep climb. Once out on the pavement, the terrain doesn’t get much better. You had descents right into steep climb after steep climb. The turn around point is even right at the top of a climb. This is where my HR really hurt me because the climb caused it to spike enough for me to feel the need to reel it in causing me to power walk part of the hill sections on lap 2. It wasn’t so high that I’d be worried if not for the problems earlier this week, but I didn’t want to risk anything. Overall, I think I was looking at a 10bpm increase over normal.
I LOVED the course though. I love running, and I love running hills. More to the point, I love running down hills. You get to bomb on this course. I wanted to do it in 1:50’ish. Obviously that didn’t work out for me, but I still enjoyed the course a lot. The only thing that stinks about multiple out-and-backs is that you have no idea who is on lap 1 and who is on lap 2. You may see somebody in your AG that is on lap 1 that you blow yourself up chasing while you’re on lap 2. I know in a vacuum that shouldn’t matter. You run your own pace. Realistically, we are emotional beings and *racing* people can give you motivation to push harder than you normally would.
Lessons Learned –
- Do NOT anger the race gods.
- Do not think you’re slick fishing a specific food item out of your rear pocket while on the bike only to hit a bump and drop it.
- Syracuse is a nice little city. I stayed at the Jefferson Clinton Hotel, which was very nice place. The area around it was full of bars and restaurants and even an IMAX theater.
- Upstate New York drivers are so much better than Massachusetts drivers. They really obey the rule of slower traffic staying right and will yield to faster traffic. It helps traffic move a lot better. Massachusetts… not so much.
- Make a checklist for packing for a race to be used.
- Transitions need to be quicker not counting the flat tire. 3:30 out of the bike to the run is way too slow. The bib pinning couldn’t have cost me that much time.
- Bring OSMO refill packets on the run. I ran out of my own hydration by 8 miles in because of the heat.
Final thoughts –
If the swim was in a different spot, I’d be back here without question. I hate murky, dirty swims, but the bike and run courses were just that much fun that I’d deal with it. As usual, Ironman logistics were great. They know how to organize an event. Check in was a breeze, transition was set up well, morning clothes bags were dropped off and picked up easily, aide stations were well stocked and well staffed, and Ironman village had good food and good vendor options. The only thing that was a little ridiculous was the line to the post-race athlete food tent. One look at it, and I decided I’d eat when I get back to my hotel. Hopefully I have appeased the race gods. I’m really just joking about the race from hell. My heart is fine, so I’m not complaining. I guess I can never do meth since I can’t even handle the stuff they make it from. I just found it comical how much went wrong. I’m shooting for a 5:15 – 5:30 Timberman 70.3 and a sub-11:30 Tahoe 140.6 (may be aggressive looking at the elevation and 2013 results). I think this race showed I was on track for both.
The Garmins –
The closest one to accurate here is the swim. I was a little off on my Garmin button pushing skills making T1 a lot longer, the bike a lot shorter, T2 is pretty accurate, and the run is short distance-wise and long time-wise (I forgot to start it right after t2 and forgot to end it at the finish line). As you can see, my HR was high but not horribly so.
The official results –
As you can see, I had a good swim, but the T1 snafu made sure I was playing catch up the rest of the day. Over 100 people in my AG passed me during that. Swimming used to be weakest point too.