Ironman 70.3 Syracuse – The good, the bad & the ugly.

So many thoughts about Sunday, I’ve been having troubles digesting it all – hence the delay in this post… also, I realize that many of you may just skim through this – trust me, my feelings won’t be hurt. Race recaps are more for the athlete that lived through the experience of the day anyway – I’ll try to stick to the highlights of the day, and spare you every little painful detail – since there is a lot that can happen over the course of 70.3 miles.IM Wrist

On Friday, I went to Jamesville Beach for the Tri Club picnic with Ironman. This meant checking in, grabbing my race numbers, bracelet and other stuff for the race. I do have to say they had some great swag – love the bag!! The picnic was fun – gave me a chance to talk to some fellow athletes and meet a couple of the pros – Dede Griesbauer and Lisa Norden (Olympic Silver Medalist who won the women’s race and came in 6th overall!).  Both athletes spoke to give some insights to racing and their thoughts on the race Sunday – they were both so down to earth and friendly.

Saturday ended up being a very busy day – probably busier than it should have been.  Around 10 am I met A and we went for a 20 minute bike and a 10 minute run to just keep things loose for the race. After the quick workout, we headed to a diner for Brunch and chowed down on some pancakes, eggs & bacon. Man do I love breakfast foods…

IMBrunchAfter brunch, we kicked it for a bit & relaxed before heading to Jamesville for bike check-in. It was nice getting down to the park toward the end of the day. Most of the athletes had already made their way through the check in process and had racked their bikes. It was good since a lot of the craziness of the check-in process was settling down and as an added bonus, it gave me a bit to check out all the expensive bikes & wheel sets hanging around (yea, I’m a sucker for all the pretty bikes…).

After racking my bike, my parents came into town so the evening was spent catching up with them, prepping and eating dinner, packing up my gear for the race and then eventually trying to relax before a restless night and an early morning. After “sleeping” my alarm went off at 4:15 am to get ready – breakfast was an egg sandwich, coffee, a naked juice, a banana, and salt water (in prep for the salt that would be leaving my body throughout the day).

IMSYR Balloon
Photo by: Jill French Poniros, CNY Tri Club

I left the house around 5 to roll out to Jamesville, and I’m so happy I didn’t push it any later. Transition was open from 4:30 to 6:30 in the morning with the race starting at 7 and as we approached the park, traffic started to back up.  It only took about 15 minutes for me to get in and get a parking space – not too bad, but I know there were others that arrived just 5 or 10 minutes later to the area and barely made it in by 6:30 to set up their gear… Talk about adding more stress to the morning!

70.3 start
A & me before the start of the race.
Catching up with Coach K before the start.
Catching up with Coach K before the start.

After transition closed down, I had a little down time until I would be starting the race. This worked out well as I was able to meet up with Coach K to talk through the race, talk a little with my parents, fight the good fight to to put on the wetsuit, get a little swim warm-up and to wish A good luck before we both started the journey through the course. My start time was at 7:25, so I felt like the time raced by and before I knew it I was running down to the water to join my swim wave – seriously, I waited till the last moment to run down there, I only spent about 2 minutes in the water waiting before the gun went off for my wave.  I think this was a good thing since I didn’t have a lot of time to think about the swim.  The swim is my least favorite part of triathlon and this swim (1.2 miles) looked so long when it was laid out in the reservoir with buoys!

70.3 swim leave 2
My swim wave, heading out.
70.3 swim finish
Exiting the Swim.
70.3 bike exit
Post swim – prepping to leave transition.

Overall, the swim really didn’t go too badly for me, I ended up just focusing on one buoy at a time and just worked to tick each one off.  The course was set up as a rhomboid with the first length being the longest segment, from my perspective, this was helpful as I turned the final corner of the course and knew I was getting close to finishing up the swim. When I tried to kick up my speed coming in on the last 200 yds, my calves started to cramp – holy wow was it painful!  I started to panic a bit but quickly calmed myself down and just swam in using my arms.  I was a little worried about how running would work as I came out of the water – and it was a bit painful but halfway up to transition the cramps eased up and my legs started to feel better. Personally, I was just excited to be past the swim and heading out to the bike!

Starting out on the bike course.
Starting out on the bike course.

As I started the bike, I was so pumped. I knew of all the hills that were waiting for me and I couldn’t wait to tackle the course. Everything was going great, and I got through the initial 12 mile climb of over 1100 ft – when I reached the top I even saw A’s sister to say hi as I rode by. As I crested the hill and started the first major decent I heard something hit my bike. I thought it was strange since I hadn’t seen anything in the road, so I shrugged it off and kept on going. But that’s when everything started to go downhill – both on the course and with my bike…IMBikeprofileI reached the first aid station at mile 15 and checked my time – I was pumped since I knew I was right on track for where I had planned to be. As I continued and turned left onto Rt 80, I discovered that I had a problem… my bike would not shift down. Enter the “oh crap” moment of my day. I also quickly realized that the noise I had heard on my decent was more than just debris coming up off the road. I had lost all ability to shift down on my rear gear set and I was stuck in the highest gear. I kept pushing on since I did not see the bike support vehicles in sight and I had hoped that maybe the bike would fix itself (wishful thinking?!?). I knew that the section of the course I was in was the easiest section but did have two very steep climbs – one around mile 20 and another at mile 30. As I approached the first climb, I still had not seen bike support as they were pretty focused on the first 15 mile segment – a lot of people had issues with flats and dropping chains on the climb. I stopped to see if I could see what was broken or fix my bike somehow, but quickly realized the shifter cable for the bike had likely snapped, and with my bike the cables are all internal within the frame so that’s not an easy fix. I wanted to keep going – there was no way I was not finishing this race – so I decided to push ahead and try my best not to tear up my legs knowing that after this bike ride there would still be 13 miles to run.

Near mile 25 - rolling on with only 2 gears...
Near mile 25 – rolling on with only 2 gears…

I will say that as I was stopped, a few people asked if I was alright, which I appreciated. I told them what was going on and got a lot of responses that told me I was in trouble… but again, I was not going to give up and I just kept telling myself things would work out somehow. As I went to tackle the first hill on Rt 80 and only made it about 1/3 of the way up before having to call it quits and walk/run my bike up.  I was so bummed since I had ridden the course so many times and never had to get off my bike to get up the hills.

As I approached the second aid station at mile 25, I kept asking if they could contact bike support – to my dismay, they did not have any way to contact them – so I pushed on. As I exited Deruyter and headed south on West Lake Road, I saw bike support drive by. I tried to flag them down but I had missed them (they were looking for people who were stopped and broken down… I guess since I was moving it makes sense that I looked like I was ok.). Honestly, I was heartbroken as I watched the car drive away. I knew the second steep climb was just around the corner and I would have to be walking another hill. I also started to worry that I was going to really have no legs left for the run, but I kept moving forward.

Photo of climb on W. Lake Rd, courtesy of Liam Woods

As I hit the next climb, I made it about 1/4 of the way off then jumped off to try and save my legs. It happened that Rich from the CNY Tri Club was working his way up the climb at the same time – he asked if I was alright and I told him what was going on. After I got up over the hill, I jumped back on my broken bike and continued forward. A few athletes knew what was going on with my bike by this point and all kept cheering me on which was definitely helpful.  After I took the decent on Rt 13, I finally saw bike support driving toward me. I immediately jumped off my bike and waved them down. When I told them my shifter cable was broken, I was quickly told that I was getting a new bike to finish the race. Jeremy from Bike Loft East quickly grabbed a bike that was close to my size off the top of the car, switch out the pedals to fit my shoes, and pulled the seat up to try and quickly fit me to the bike. A few minutes later he pushed me off to continue the course. It was then that I realized that I didn’t know how the shifting system worked on my new best friend, the Fuji Road Bike, that just joined me for the next 24 miles of the course. Luckily, as I started the next climb I manged to sort out the shifters and get back at the task of finishing up the bike.

Finishing up the bike - with my new friend - the Fuji.
Finishing up the bike – with my new friend – the Fuji.

On the climb on 91, I caught back up to many of the people that had passed me on the W. Lake Road climb and by the finish I started to see several of the people that passed me on the Rt 80 climb. I was a little worried that I had torn my legs up during the bike, but I felt great and was so happy I was able to make it through all the issues with the bike. It was also fun since many other athletes told me that they had been impressed that I was smiling and stayed positive even as I was walking my bike – but really, there was nothing else I could do. My only goal had been to keep moving forward.  I was shocked at the end of the bike because I knew I had finished the 56 miles around 3 hrs 30 minutes – which was about the best I had done in training, so I know that I biked much stronger during the race which leaves me wondering what my actual time would have been without the stops and issues.

Starting the Run

As I finished up the bike and got ready for the run, I realized just how hot it was. The last 2 miles of the bike course and the first 2 miles of the run overlapped so I knew a lot of people were walking. I changed into a racing top and my sneakers, threw on a visor and headed out. I felt really strong until about a mile in, then I realized I was a little dehydrated and probably hadn’t gotten the proper nutrition in during the bike with all my issues and distractions. So started the run which simply turned into a march to cross the finish. I started a run/walk strategy to get through the run course, which was anything but flat. I also began to wonder why I had chosen such a difficult course for my first 70.3… although really I knew I couldn’t pass over the Ironman course that was right in my backyard!

IMRunProfileI continued on the course, and was a little disappointed when I realized how long it took me to reach the turnaround on lap 1 (39 minutes) but I just kept thing easy and told myself to save it for lap 2 of the course. I stopped at every aid station and would grab 2 glasses of water, a cup of sports drink or coke, a cup of ice and a cold sponge if it was available.  (I also took a little break at one of the porta-johns, a first for me during a race – but it was more about comfort for me at this point!) Lap #1 took me a total of 1 hr 20 minutes, and I knew that I had to readjust my goal for the day. My original hope of a 6 hr 15 min finish had slipped from my fingers at this point… but I knew I would finish. There was no question about it.  All I could do was just get through the final 6.5 miles and reach the finish.  As I went back out for Lap #2, A was finishing up his bike and yelled to me to cheer me on.  I was so grateful for this since I was trying to slog my way up the hill out of Jamesville park. I was also glad to see that A was still going strong and making his way through the course since he was crazy and decided not to train for this event – his second ever triathlon… his first was the sprint Oswego tri we did the week prior… (seriously, who does that?!?).

Heading back from the turn on the course.

On the turn around for lap 2, I finally saw A coming up the hill for his first lap turn – I was so excited to see him that I ran out into the road and we exchanged a big hug and good luck before continuing on. I had a little less than 3 miles to go and I was definitely ready to be done!  I had hoped I would be able to slog out the final 3 miles with a run, but my energy had been zapped by then due to the missed nutrition and hydration on the bike, and then lovely heat (90 degrees) and humidity (70%) that mother nature provided us on Sunday. As I closed in on the park, I heard thunder and realized that the sky was turning pretty dark over the park. I was about 1.5 miles out from the finish, but the storm was definitely moving faster than I was. As I hit mile 12, the thunder kept getting closer and the sky kept getting darker. Entering the park, the rain began to fall as I hit to gravel loop that would bring me to the finishing chute. It didn’t take long for the storm to hit full blast and as I ran up to finish the announcer was telling everyone to head to their cars and that they would no longer be announcing the finishers. I crossed the line in 7 hours and 1 minute – but did not get to celebrate the finish. It was pouring rain and pretty chaotic as people were running for cover. I was handed my finisher medal and a finisher hat, but had to find someone to take my timing chip. Overall it was pretty disappointing after all that work to get to the finish line – definitely not the finish I had envisioned.

Then to make things worse, as we all ran for cover, the race director apparently called the race for safety concerns and the remaining athletes were not allowed to finish up their second loop of the run course. This made the fact that I was able to finish seem like a blessing, as I cannot imagine how that would feel to be told you cannot finish the last 6.5 miles after making it through 63.8 miles of the course – not being able to finish = absolutely heartbreaking. Sadly, this also meant that I completely missed A at the finish line. The experience of finishing and sharing in the finish was just ripped from our hands. This was something we had both talked about for a number of months now, and we were not able to celebrate, or even see each other at the finish because of all the chaos.

Needless to say, it was a very disappointing end to a grueling day.

IM FinishThe past few days have had their ups and downs.  I have a lot of mixed feelings about the day overall. I am happy I was able to persevere and finish the race given all the obstacles that I faced during the day (bike breakdowns, heat, humidity, etc.) but I am also disappointed due to the finish and the fact I feel like I didn’t really get to prove out my training. However, at the end of the day, I still do love multisport and triathlon, even when it does dish out a difficult day. I am grateful for the people I’ve met in this sport including my coach, my training buddies and the help I’ve gotten from the guys at the bike shop.  They were all part of this journey, as were my family and friends that supported me and encouraged me along the way over the past few months.  I truly couldn’t have done this without all the love and support.  So thank you everyone.

IMSYR - AT Results

I’ve spent a couple days contemplating whether or not I’ll sign up for this race again next year, and I think I will probably end up signing up again – it was a good challenge and it still was a good day overall, despite all the unplanned events – but I also think I need a few more days to think about it. Luckily the registration process doesn’t open for a bit, so I have some time. IMrelax

For now, it’s a bit of R&R for a few days and then I’ll be refocusing on running again as I have a couple of 15K races in July and a Tough Mudder to conquer. I will possibly be looking at another sprint or olympic tri in August, and I am now contemplating a Marathon (still not sure about that one… but I’m thinking I can convince my cousin to do it with me…maybe… what do you think J, you up for it?). 


6 thoughts on “Ironman 70.3 Syracuse – The good, the bad & the ugly.

  1. Jean H. Bean says:

    Thank you for your interesting and well-written description of the race.
    I can’t imagine how much fortitude it took!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s