Ironman 70.3 Ohio July 30th, 2017 – Long one!!
Knocking out Ohio off my list of races in every state! It was a quick adventure, not very eventful. But here is my race recap! This was my 2nd half ironman.
Why did I choose this one? I needed a prep race for my upcoming first full ironman, Ironman Wisconsin, September 10th. I didn’t want to do Door County, Racine (of which both swims were either altered or cancelled as both are in Lake Michigan), and Steelhead’s date was too far off to be useful. I had planned on doing Toughman Minnesota (which I may end up doing next year), but they changed their bike course, so I decided to go ahead and knock off Ohio on my list instead…advertising a flat bike course and hilly run, with a so-so lake swim (mainly iffy due to water quality and only in its second year, last year being non wetsuit legal). Sounded fun!
It was an 8 hour drive out from Madison, one extra hour added on due to changing time zones. Delaware, Ohio was a very interesting area. We stayed about 15 miles south closer to Columbus, our hotel wasn’t great as it smelled of smoke and didn’t have any amenities like shampoo, sitting area, AC (in wall didn’t work well), ect. Whatever. The surrounding area was AMAZING for their food selection however—Smashburger was the best part. Athlete check-in was simple and easy and fast arriving there later Friday afternoon. It was VERY windy that day, I hoped it would die down before race time. Got up earlier the next day and headed out to T1 to check in my bike and check out the lake area. Lake was about as good as a lake on the eastern coast could get (even though this was far away from the coastline haha), water wasn’t clear, visibility was about 3” or less in water. I was more concerned about the water quality because there has been a history of blue-green algae AND e. coli, but neither was present in hazordous concentrations on race day. The temperature on Friday for the lake was 77 degrees. On Saturday at T2 check in, it was 76.5, still not enough to meet the 76.1°F wetsuit legal regulations. Oh well, I’d practiced…either way would be fine with me. My first half ironman was in the ocean (although the salt did help you float), and that was not wetsuit legal, and I was fine then too. So T1 and T2 were in different locations. T1 was north by about 12 or so miles from the finish line at Delaware Lake State Park. Check in at T1 was also a breeze, I think I may have just beat the crowds however.
Now let’s move on to race day. 75.9 °F! Wetsuit legal. I got decent sleep the night before, woke up a little earlier than planned, left a little earlier, and got to the race day shuttles on time. However, there was little parking left already and we sort of made up a parking space in the lot which I expected to be much larger. Rich and I got on the shuttle and headed out. When the shuttle bus got close to the park, traffic turned into a nightmare, and people started panicking that they weren’t going to start on time. Transition closed as stated at 6:45am. My swim wave was the very last wave to go off, so I wasn’t worried about not starting on time, but rather getting my things into transition and set up on time. Everyone started just jumping off the bus and running to the start, which at this point was a little less than a mile away. I stayed put on the bus and tried to be patient. This was rewarded, though about 0.2 miles away, I got off and just walked and beat the bus there. Got set up even though we were there past transition close…I think the race was just more popular than the previous year and they were not prepared for this. The first swim wave went off at 7am, as planned though. One thing that bugged me though, was there was no water at the swim start, I eventually found a drinking fountain though. My swim wave went off at 8:24am, 30-34 years old female.
We lined up at the end of the line behind the other swim waves in front of us. I put on the wetsuit, and talked with some other girls there, I’m still surprised people are freaking out about the open water swim. I guess I take for granted my calm demeanor in swimming. I’ve always thought about it as “it is what it is, nothing you can do now”. The swim was a giant triangle basically. We entered the water (water start, not beach start), couldn’t touch the ground, no big deal though. Water was warm! People freaked out more. And then we were off! I noticed right away swimming in a wetsuit was affecting my rotation for swim stroke. Oh well. I resisted the urge to look at my 100 yard splits on my watch as it continued to buzz at me. The first leg of the triangle went very well, went by fast, and was away from the sun. Lots of hitting people and running into others. I had a rhythm going but it kept getting interrupted every few minutes by running into others. Went around the first turn and all anyone could see was SUN, so very bright!! It reflected off the water, and the buoys which were about 100m apart could not be seen. This is where I started to get on and off again, not going completely straight. Between here and the swim exit, I’m sure I added on about an extra 100 yards of swim distance to the 1.2 miles total. I didn’t feel like I was slowing down in speed, but kept having to stop and check to see where I was on course because sighting was just not working. The Kayaks helped a LOT yelling at a group of 8-10 of us who had got lost a few times together. I still kept running into others, now passing those in the swim waves in front of mine. Finally made it to the last turn, and saw the swim exit far ahead. I made sure to sight, and counted stroke to sight every 5 strokes or so. THIS slowed me down, as some of my final swim splits were randomly slower. The course had it gone the other direction would have prevented blind swimming, apparently this was an issue in the previous year and had not been fixed. I kept about the same swim pace from start to finish, and felt strong by the end. I stood up when I saw a lifeguard standing in the water passing him by. I finished the swim in 52:10, 2 minutes slower than my goal time, but to be fair, I had stopped a few times to try and figure out where I was going. Pace was 2:42 min/100m, or 2:19 min/100 yd. Very solid, which I hope to maintain during Ironman…I’d be very pleased with that.
Ran up the hill of the lake and as soon as my feet hit pavement, I had to slow WAY down. I’ve been known to cut my feet coming out of the swim (whether a practice or race) as my feet don’t really callous, and the asphalt was covered in gravel. It took me roughly 3 minutes to go from the swim exit to my bike in transition. This killed my T1 time which ended up being 10:41, about as fast as my Los Cabos race, but I didn’t have a wetsuit to remove then (there were no wetsuit strippers at this race). Transition 1 otherwise went as planned. I even got my compression socks on without issues! In the athlete guide, as well as the athlete briefing, we were told that there would be sunscreen heading out of T1, there were not. A girl nearby me had a can of sunscreen, she told me I could use a little as she ran off to the port-o-potty, she saved my skin, thank you! Of course I missed a lot of places, but was thankful for what I could use.
The day was bright and sunny. The bike course was a one loop course that went north for a long while, turned east for a shorter bit, and headed south for a longer while with a few turns in the last few miles. Perfect weather for the bike, until we hit Highway 23…the WIND! So hello headwind for the next 23 miles. Although it was almost flat, there was a very gradual increase in overall elevation over those 23 miles, the winds made it very difficult for me to get my heart rate under control. I switched my watch face from reading speed/distance, to just heart rate (HR from here on out), I desperately tried to get it under 160 bpm, but was averaging about 164-170 bpm for the first 23 miles. My legs didn’t feel good, but I kept with my nutrition plan and kept going. Started passing a lot of people. First aid station was a little past 15 miles I believe, and I stopped to refill water and take a gel. 6:38 for that mile, so I decided I was going to try and take things on the bike and not stop. I actually don’t have a lot of skill doing this as I started road biking just 1.5 years ago! Until this year, I could not take my hand off the handlebar. The scary part of this was that the roads we were on were open to traffic and not closed off at all. A few cars in spots got close, but nothing I wasn’t used to already, just was expecting this to be different in a race I guess. This bike was not fun yet. But then the turn to the east happened. The wind was coming down from the north, so the wind was still there past mile 23, but it felt so much better to not be facing it. This is where the bike really started for me. Mile 30ish was the 2nd aid station. I did stop to refill my water again and took another gel, but reduced my time there, 5:00 that mile (moving time was 3:39). This also reset my legs and brought my HR down a little. Soon we hit smooth new pavement and was heading south, so fast!! Yay tailwind! This was fun. With the tailwind, the smooth roads, and a slight overall downhill grade (opposite of the first 23 miles), I managed to average over 17 mph up through mile 40, including the aid station stops. HR was just not coming down so I said to myself, screw it, I’ll have a wonderful bike and just survive the run. The course was rather boring, as you didn’t turn much (long stretches of road you were on for 10+ miles at least), and you were ALWAYS pedaling! It was like a long trainer ride. There was little to no shade on the bike course, RIP skin.
The end of the bike course was altered last minute. The advertised elevation gain for the bike was about 460 feet. The gain ended up being over 500 feet with the end of the course changed. I have to say I still enjoyed the end of the course regardless of more gain. I remember taking the first right hand turn with a guy I was passing and hearing him curse at the sight of the new hill in front of us. I now knew it was going to be a rolling course from that point on to the finish. Time for some fun and to relax the legs…well that didn’t happen haha. Spun easy up the hills, and spent a lot of time in the big ring pedaling hard down the hills to gain speed. Last aid station came and went, I finally had taught myself to take gels while riding and reaching for my water and putting it back…I learned a lot! I took a gatorade bottle with me from the last aid station. I didn’t have any yet, but kept it regardless. I pounded down the last few miles, averaging a minimum of 16 mph on the hills and maxing out at about 20 mph on the flats. That was fun! Bike course headed back on the local bike path, that was nice and relaxing. Came into dismount and into T2. Skin was toast. Felt good though! I wanted to finish the bike in about 3:20, but came in at 3:28. Thanks but no thanks headwind. 512 feet of gain on the bike total.
Voluteers were amazing here, helping me quickly refill water, asking if I was ok. There started appearing all these signs for Greg #436…who was Greg? No real support on the bike course except for those at aid stations and one lost girl on the road going up and down the south part of the course in her Subaru ringing a cowbell out her sunroof!
I was actually able to run in T2 since I had shoes on (albeit bike shoes but whatever), this came onto astroturf, which was soft anyway and a rubber track. Once again, my transition spot was way in the back end of the field. I made it in and out in 5:43. My error came in T2. That gatorade I took with me, I pounded down for no real reason, this cause me to have stomach slosh for most of the run
Outside of T2, there were people with sunscreen…welp, this is kind of a lost cause at this point, so I skipped it and took a pee break instead. Lost 1 minutes or less on this, nice! I knew the run wasn’t going to go well. The run course was a two loop lollipop style course with a longer steady climb for a few miles and a steeper drop at the end of the loop. It was hot by this point in the day, higher than 86°F, humidity was a thing too, although not terrible. The pavement made it bad, and the lack of any shade in sight. Pace was low and my legs were tight. My focus was just getting through this and making it to the down hill portions and slamming those at least. The course ended up not being a hilly as I imagined. The first 6 miles were net uphill, but honestly I didn’t really feel this at all. Elevation gain according to my garmin was 390 feet. There was a nice shaded section of the course at least, but it was only about 2 miles. Mile 1, there was a family with a pick up truck with a bed full of cold water offering to splash people, took that one up on their offer!
I was walking the more inclined uphills to save energy. I walked through every aid station. I took way too much at the first two, making my stomach more sloshy. I started walking more to help my stomach move less and digest what was in it, didn’t work. I played leap frog with a lovely lady for the entire course, she was on a walk 2 run 2 I believe. Mile 2 was hard to even get to, I felt terrible. But then mile 6 came, and things started to get better. My legs felt fine then. Sprinkler man was where he advertised on the facebook page (more on that at the end of this), and a bonus orca whale sprinkler half a mile later on the uphill back to the 2nd loop. I decided being wet wasn’t a bad thing, so I started pouring water down my back. By mile 9, I started feeling a lot better. I had stopped taking gels, I stopped taking ANY gatorade at all and was just drinking coca-cola. I at some point past this older lady’s yard where she was playing old rock music, specifically “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, and I was nodding my head along with the music, and she yelled (nicely) “Rock on keep going!”. She was awesome. More and more signs for Greg. At some point I saw his family out there to support him on course! Nice group of people. Apparently they had a large sign with Greg’s head on a stick. Another weird feature was the that tar on the run course was melty, and was incredibly sticky (at first I thought was just a bunch of GU on the ground), were people’s shoes melting? Was it that hot that the ground was partially melted?
Mile 11 came by and a girl Sarah was doing her 2nd half ironman, quite chatty, but I enjoyed the distraction and I could be just as chatty back! We talked A LOT and pushed each other to the end. This was my race angel, much like Robin for my first ultra marathon. I love finding someone to just keep pushing you at the end and finding you were pushing them too! Finally feeling ok, I entered the stadium (the stick went by way faster and less torturous the 2nd time even though it was uphill coming back), the rubber track felt so nice even though it was much hotter here. I ran through the finish, but I didn’t feel finished, so that was a good sign, but I keep thinking to myself…I have to do twice this distance at this kind of pace in September, that still seems so impossible. I have to say the race finish was nicely set up, one of the nicest I’ve crossed for sure, great place for people to watch and pictures to be taken at good angles…great music too. I laughed coming into the finished (I wondered what the song would be before arriving) as “Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You)” which has a not so clean version, so I kept trying to figure out which version it was haha. But this is an ITG step chart too (Easy as Pie 4), so I thought, how ironic! Lots of smiles for the finish. I finished the run in 2:34, for an overall finish of 7 hours and 12 minutes and 8 seconds. This of course beats my time in Los Cabos by a bit (7:52 finish there), and the course cut off for that was 30 minutes shorter.
Overall I’m trying not to beat myself up over the not sub 7 hour finish on a flat bike course. But then again, I think of how different it was for someone who hasn’t trained on flats for a run to run flat, and it’s hard! To recap shortly, I lived in southwest Virginia for my whole life (with the exception of almost 4 years in New Mexico for grad school), so I trained in the hills and mountains. I thought it would be easy to do a flat marathon as my 2nd (Outer Banks Marathon, SUPER SUPER flat), but it ended up being much harder because my legs were not used to just pounding the same elevation for so long and not being able to use different muscle groups really took a toll on me. That is now my 3rd fastest marathon ironically. I fear the same happened here at this race. I’ve been training on hills mostly in Wisconsin on the bike course and surrounding areas there, which are very not flat, so I get a lot of bike pedaling breaks by going downhill every so often! I did not get breaks on this course, and I could really feel it, and a lot of it on the run. I ended up (jokingly) concluding I would have rather done an IMWI bike loop than face the wind for so long on the Ohio course! Now let’s talk about the post race events…
I did not do one thing, and that was replace the salt I needed. I was fetching my bike out of T2, and took my shoes off because it’s astroturf, it’s soft, but it was hot (insta regret), but my ankle was gnawing at me because the timing chip didn’t make my skin happy. I got my stuff and headed back to Rich (he wasn’t allowed to be in transition) I got to the stadium gates, and wanted to put on my flip flops so I could walk across the pavement (pavement has to be hotter than the turf!), but my compression socks were still on. So I sat down in front of the gates, sitting down FELT SO GOOD (first time post race). I pulled on my right sock, and immediately my right calf went into a severe charlie horse. The two volunteers at the gate (both women) came to my aid and tried to help me relax and release the muscle from contraction. It was about a minute before I could get it to calm down half way, it was so painful. The one lady was able to get my sock off for me after it calmed down. Then they asked if I could stand, so I started to stand up and immediately my left quad on the inside cramped up the same way, but I immediately fell to the ground to prevent it from progressing. They got me a wheelchair (to my dislike), and they pulled me up into it. I tried putting my left foot on the platform for the chair, but then the outside of my left quad seized up. Everything was just pain. I’ve never cramped so bad before in my life. I was rolled over to the medical tent, where I took my entire emergency supply of salt tablets. Poor Rich wasn’t allowed there either, he could just sit at the metal gate and watch 😦
After about 15 to 20 minutes I felt like I could move. I didn’t feel physically terrible in any other way during this time. No lightheadedness, no fatigue, just felt dumb being in a medical tent. I felt bad also because I knew we had an 8 hour trip ahead of us and I was putting us behind. Lesson learned though. As I was sitting there, I noticed a lot of people in ice pools nearby. One guy was breathing super fast, and he had been there a while. I was thankful regardless. I never showed any signs of cramping when I was racing though.
That was about it! Now about the facebook group. I recently found out about a small facebook group for the athletes somehow. So many posts in there, from first timers to veterans, to volunteers, to just locals supporting their community. This was the best tri community I have encountered yet. Everyone seemed to be on the same page, and helping each other out. I hope this continues! I found out about so much about the race just from this page.
This ended up being longer than I thought, once again. I will include pictures later when I buy them. Stay tuned! Two more race reports coming soon!