This race wasn’t a PR, but I’m going to mark this as a win in my book – I finally got to do all three sports in a race for the first time in almost a full calendar year!
This was a three-day trip for us; go up on Friday and come back late Sunday night. We both knew the Sunday night drive would suck serious donkey dick, but Monday is an early day for work. It was still quite doable though.
We’ll start this a week out since there are parts of significance here. Six days before the race I had food poisoning. Our weekly Mexican joint around the corner had failed me. Food poisoning feels absolutely debilitating; for the whole day I felt like all my strength had been sucked out of me. It was a shitty feeling because I was coming off a strong eight week training block and felt amazing. The next couple of days felt like I had lost all the power in my arms and legs. I was just hoping I could rebound for Sunday.
That Friday we went up to check-in at the hotel and relax. It was just easier that way because a two day trip like I did for Ironman 70.3 New Orleans was out of the question. The Mazda 3 had a great ride, but I feel like I need to add more deadener to the floor because the tire noise can drown out the radio. From north Georgia to Ohio we drove through almost non-stop rain. I had forgotten to pack any lube for my chain so we stopped at a Columbus Performance Bicycle to get lubed up again. From there we went around the corner to Kroger to get groceries and booze. By the way, Krogers up in Ohio are much nicer and larger than down here. Maybe the further you get from their home in Cincinnati the lower the quality of the store?
Our hotel, America’s Best Inn & Suites, was a solid three stars on a scale of five. It’s right off the freeway and a little dated. The most dated thing in our room…the old tube TV almost as old as me. It was on top of a dresser at a slanted angle which made it look like the only thing anchoring it to the wall was the coax cable. I don’t think I’ve watched a tube TV in a decade. I thought for sure it’d fall down. I know, below D’s standards, right? Well, too bad because all the other roadside Sunbury hotels were probably like that too.
My parents came down for the race and they got into town before us. It was great to have them there and it was the first time D got to meet my old man. My mom came to Chattanooga last year, so I knew she’d like coming to this one too. It’s different now because she can actually spectate. Growing up she always got involved by officiating or doing something, so I feel like she never was able to enjoy watching me swim. I muled up a hummingbird layered cake for my grandparents. Anything sweet is like crack to them and it was my grandmother’s favorite. My grandparents haven’t returned any of my calls all month, so it’s good to know all it takes is to send a cake home to get a proof of life phone call.
Ironman has officially switched its backpack to the over-the-shoulder single strapped small backpack. It doesn’t hold very much, but there are a couple of silver linings. D could follow me around by running on foot and have all her stuff be very stable. My mom used my other one to haul around her camera lens and equipment. Sorry folks, but if you’re looking for quality swag this isn’t the place to find it. The only free things I could get were a bunch of little tubes of sunscreen. There were barely any vendors at the shindig and if it weren’t for the required athlete meeting I would have been out in ten minutes or less. Ironman hasn’t been a good athlete village in the last year or so. However they will sell you all their shit all day long! Please don’t buy an overpriced Ironman 70.3 Ohio tri jersey and shorts…you look like a goober in them.
The athlete meeting was…well for the most part they’re all the same except for the course specific info. The race had been teetering close to being wetsuit legal leading up to the race. That day it had been 76.9° F (25° C), so they were hoping it’d drop some more overnight (it did). They did say there was going to be wetsuit strippers at the swim finish. It was a point-to-point race so naturally you have split transitions. Ironman said they would be hauling our T1 stuff back down to the finish, so they save you an extra trip.
This was a wave start, so it brings up a few challenges as a racer. The swim is likely to be the most difficult leg because of that, but it typically gets better afterwards.
Wave start position will dictate a lot of your mobility. If you’re at the back of the bus you WILL have a much later start than the official race start. The first thing you need to deal with here is how deflating this can be. Next you need to understand the further back you are the more people you’re going to have to go through. There are four minutes in between waves, but you’re going to catch the preceding waves in stages and it doesn’t take long. Soon after you roll up on a continuous asteroid belt you need to navigate through. It’s why I call this situation a Chinese fire drill and it pass to be able to have sighting skills like Magic Johnson had court vision. You need to be able to see the holes and slice through them. You’re going to end up running people over. There are going to be kicks, punches and maybe even Dikembe Mutombo throwing ‘bows.
After you made it through the swim you get to navigate the next Chinese fire drill on the bike. You’ll spend your day passing people there. The slower people are more than likely first-timers, and most them don’t know how to ride on the road for shit. They won’t hug the right side and will make passing more difficult for you. I should note that being in a later wave does have an impact on how you race and by that I mean it creates a false sense of urgency in both the swim and the bike. You’re going to want to haul ass to get up to the front and to beat as much of the heat as you can. Don’t get flustered–stick to your plan and try not to pick up any drafting or passing penalties.
The run is insignificant here. You’ll just have a ton of people ahead of you and you won’t know if they’re on their first lap or second lap. It is likely that the person out front will finish as you start depending on how far back you were.
The weather was amazing for this race. The low was 57° F and the high was maybe 80° F (and that was probably 4 pm). The dew point when we woke up was 50% and there was no humidity–a huge contrast from Atlanta. Right now, Atlanta feels like a place where if you owned a place there and hell you’d rent your Atlanta home out and live in hell. Anyway, 57° F is chilly for a morning swim, but as run out of that water to T1 you won’t feel it. I thought the wind was non-existent almost all day because when I looked around I never saw trees, crops or high grass sway.
The swim is basically how I described it to you in the run down. The race started at 7:00 am and my wave (20 of 22) didn’t go until 8:16 am. Yeah, it’s anti-climactic unlike a rolling start. I just listened to music and tried to stay motivated considering I had to be up at 3 am to beat the rush for parking. It’s gun-timing because the race has an in-water start. It took about 250 yards for me to catch the first person from wave in front of me and about 700 yards to hit the aforementioned Chinese fire drill. Naturally I took some shots, but it’s like Luda said, “You ’bout to get ran the fuck over!” It’s not like I could say anything that they’d hear. I held a pretty steady pace outside of cranking it the first 500 yards; I didn’t need to feel spent on something I can cruise on. I did have trouble sighting on the long leg of the triangle. Because the time of day it was, the sun was directly in my face and it didn’t even help that I wore dark cherry tint Vanquishers (they were my deepest tint and I pick up yellows and oranges better with them).
You know how I said this race was on the cusp of being wetsuit legal the day before? Well it was at 75.9° F so it was in fact wetsuit legal. That is still piss warm to me, so I opted to go without a wetsuit. I prefer the feel of colder water because it makes me want to get the hell out as soon as possible and a wetsuit would have made me even warmer. Remember how I told you Ironman staff said there would be wetsuit strippers in the athlete meeting? That was a lie, but I made out since I didn’t wear it.
The bike was a mixed bag. Those first five miles are not particularly pleasant – the highway is in desperate need of being repaved. There were buckles in the highway roughly every 200 feet so it felt a lot like speed bumps. After that things smoothed out for a while. As I was going over the top end, somewhere near mile 20, there was some kind of accident. I was stuck behind a pick-up so when he veered left I was already on top of it. All I could see was a bike on the ground and race support helping out and blocking off traffic as an ambulance race towards me. It wasn’t an intersection, so I couldn’t say if it was a bike crash or they got bumped by a car.
I picked up more speed over the next twenty miles because I flew on the paved straight-a-ways. When you reached mile 42 things became a little difficult again. From mile 42 to 50 there were road condition issues. The paving job was subpar and likely needs redone. Also, it was if some asshole road a four-wheeler on it about 5 minutes after they laid it down…so you really had no smooth surface because of the tire treads which were imprinted. Mile 42 is also where you start playing Pacman because the course picked up all these technical turns. The first turn is nearly a hair-pin, the rest are 90°. It started to get really annoying because it never seemed to end. We seemed to pick up some small rollers after mile 50. This was where some douche canoe kept passing me going down and then dying trying to climb. That became very irritating and I impolitely and crassly told him to learn how to climb a hill and get out of my way. It was almost irrelevant that I forgot to switch the bike mode to the Fuji on my Edge (all that means is I couldn’t get power meter readings). Outside of all of that my bike plan was on point and I was pleased.
T2 is located on the Ohio Wesleyan football field. It’s not a bad set up because if you know how to read a football field you’ll know how to find your bike easily. Downside is the field is that new turf which lies on top of the finely ground used tires. You’ll pick up some of it if you sit on the ground to put your shoes on. I was in & out in 44 seconds according to my timing chip, which was flying for me. I was really moving that day.
I really had to pee at the coming off the bike (at least we know I was hydrated), but all of the John’s were occupied leaving transition. I would just hold it until I saw one with a green tab on the door. The first finisher was coming in as I was going out. I was a little envious because that means I had nearly two hours left. The goal was to see if I could hold 7:15-7:20 pace on a flat course and I seemed to do that the first six miles (with the exception of mile 5 when I finally found an open port-a-potty).
At the beginning of the run I learned my SaltStick had started to disintegrate. The solid tabs were now soft and fell apart as I tried to take them out. I’ve never had this problem before, but it came at a bad time. Because of that food poisoning earlier in the week I really needed to make sure I was taking in electrolytes on the run because I couldn’t hold that pace without them. Mile 7 was when I started feeling the crash coming on and I told D when I saw her on the turn for the second loop. All of a sudden I was feeling as weak as I did on Monday, so obviously I didn’t completely rebound in time. If I was 100% I think I could have pushed through a lot of it. Since I had no electrolytic intake on me I needed to resort to taking the warm course Gatorade just for something. Most things on the course were warm, including that sweet Dixie Champagne. Of the two aid stations with sponges only one had cold ones. Only three aid stations had ice. After my crash I started to walk the aid stations. I let myself walk about a tenth of a mile on five occasions to try to pull it back together. It wasn’t all that hot out during my run, but you felt it radiating off the sections that were paved recently. The finish in the stadium with all the spectators in the stands is pretty cool because I was able to spot D and my parents easily.
Like I said, this is a win because I finally got to do all three sports for the first time in nearly a year. The race was also going really well and my plan had been executed well until my electrolyte problem, so I was happy with that too. If I were to do anything differently I’d maybe back off the throttle a little on the run. Even though I crashed, my run form was still looking good in the videos my family shot of the race.
The ride home wasn’t the most pleasant drive I’ve ever driven. We knew it’d be nearly 1 am by the time we got home and my glutes & hips started getting sore before we got out of Ohio. I thought about grabbing a shower at a truck stop, but we said fuck it and changed out of our clothes in the parking lot before leaving. Wouldn’t be the first time I deck changed in front of a bunch of people without them knowing.
For those interested in the Relive course map (it’s all three sports joined as one).
See here for all the videos from the race.