I’ve been dragging my feet writing this race recap. For one, I have had a hard time putting Sunday into words. Two, I find writing and reading race recaps to be painful at times.
In short, the race went really well. The feeling of contentment that I have from finishing this race, meeting my goals, and finally getting the experience that I wanted from it has left me feeling happy and at peace (as opposed to the frustration of last year’s experience). Due to this, I’m not feeling the need to rehash each moment of the race – however, I know that I really should document what went well and what went not so well, to remember what really worked so I can replicate it if needed in the future… also, simply skipping over the race recap of the goal race of the season after writing about it for months would be the equivalent of writing a novel but deciding to just leave the last chapter unwritten. Not very nice.
In light of these reasons, I am going to force myself to write a recap – (if you’d rather skip the step-by-step of the race and just scroll through the pictures, I won’t be offended, like I said, race recaps can be painful to read…) .
First, the cliff notes version. My race came together amazingly well on Sunday. I finished in 5 Hours and 57 Minutes. I never dreamed of a sub-6 Hour 70.3 on the Syracuse course. I had figured that if all the pieces fell into place, I would be finishing around 6 Hours, 15 Minutes. Maaaaybe 6 hours and 10 Minutes if I had a really really good day. So 5 Hours 57 Minutes blew me away.
4 am wake up call, breakfast, feed the dogs, allow for ample time for them to relieve themselves, throw the gear in the car, leave the house by 5 am to head to the park. Some traffic to get into the parking lot, but nothing like last year where I was caught in the “rush hour” to arrive.
Arrive at the park, head to transition to set up, after body marking, prep bike – blow up tires, tape gels to bike stem, water bottles placed, bike computer placed, lay out sneakers, running belt, hat, bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses and nutrition for the day.
Walked transition a couple times to make sure I knew where to find my bike later… (…there were a lot of bikes… and mine blended in waaaayyy too well.)
Hang out and wait for race start, and subsequently wait for my swim wave start (1 hour, 5 minutes after actual start of race…).
I have to admit, I didn’t mind the wait as much as I thought I might. It gave me time to eat a snack, hang out on the beach, relax. Actually, I was so calm it was weird. No butterflies, no nerves, I actually felt just kind of tired. Weird. Weird and not great since the adrenaline kinda needs to kick in to get things moving… However, race morning I found myself really not caring what the outcome of the race was going to be. I learned so much during training, met so many new people, and enjoyed the process of getting to the start line so much this year, it didn’t really matter to me that it was race day. I honestly would have been just as happy not actually racing.
Around 7:30 I gave up my stellar location on the beach (I’d been hanging with this chill dude, Ted the Turtle. We had some bonding time while waiting for my swim wave, he’s really nice – you can hang with him anytime at Jamesville Beach.)
Anyhow, after getting the wetsuit on, I meandered down to the water, completed a 5 minute swim warmup, and then walked over to the start just as my age group (AG) was about to wade in to await our start. (Perfect timing.)
After wading out to the start buoys and waiting our 5 minutes between the swim waves, the horn blew and we were off for the swim. Again, I was super relaxed (strangely, but thankfully, so).
I had wanted to start at the right side of my swim wave, but unfortunately so did a bunch of other girls. Due to this face, I ended up starting somewhat in the middle of the pack. Typically, this would place a person into the “washing machine” of the pack where everyone is jumbled together and kicking for the swim start, but luckily a lot of people had moved toward the edges of the pack so I did not have many issues with bumping into other athletes.
By the time I reached the first big buoy, the pack had thinned out considerably and I was able to swim the rest of the swim without bumping into too many others. Another factor that kept me away from the fray of other swimmers was the fact that I really failed in the sighting department on Sunday – according to my watch, I ended up swimming 1.3 miles, and I think this is due to the fact that I kept veering off to the left of the swim course, trying to correct in to the right, only to end up far left again. The good thing about this, no other swimmers to really worry about. The bad thing, my time was slowed a bit.
I don’t know what it is about the swim out, but it always seems to take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to reach the turn, when I reached the red buoy I checked my watch an noticed I was a little over 15 minutes – a decent pace! I swam over to the next red buoy, turned right to head back into shore and picked up the pace a bit. The swim back was much like the swim out, off course but minimal interruptions from other swimmers. According to my watch, I swam 1.3 miles, and came out with this lovely zig-zag pattern…
Official swim split time: 35:10 – nearly nailed it! A bit slower than my best time in LP (32 minutes), but still a really good time for me and much better than my practice OWS had been during the week leading up to the event!
When I came out of the water, I knew I had swam hard – after the wetsuit stripper, I tried to start running to T1, but could only manage a light jog – I was a bit winded! Also, I totally misjudged and missed my bike isle in transition – there is a first for everything – I had my bike location specked out, ran down to where it should be and it wasn’t my bike! After a few seconds of panic I realized my mistake, ran back down the aisle and over to the correct aisle. I couldn’t believe it – this is the first time I’ve ever gotten “lost” in transition – ugh!
After finding my bike, I dropped the wetsuit, swim cap and goggles, on with the bike shoes, helmet and stuffed my pockets with food. Grabbed the bike off the rack, turned on the computer and I ran up to the bike exit, mounted and I was off for the ride!
Total T1 Time: 4 minutes
My instructions for the bike start was to take things easy. Even though many others would be hammering down on Apulia, I was told to hold back and to get my HR in check as much as possible before the penitentiary hill and then Sweet Road climb. I must admit this was difficult as others were flying by me, but in the end it totally paid off. Penn Hill hits at mile 2, and climbs 200 ft during the next 3/4th mile. You get a few rollers between miles 3-5 then its climbing Sweet Road from mile 5 to 11.5 for 900 ft of elevation change. I definitely passed most people that had passed me on the Penn hill, then quickly passed me back and then I passed again on Sweet Road never to see them again.
After being patient, watching my HR and getting through the first 12 miles, it was time to start to rock and roll. After the initial elevation drop (400 ft in 2 miles), I passed one of my teammates – a few cheers for each other and off I went – the miles seemed to just drop away. I think that I was so concerned about making sure that I ate enough food on the bike, that I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about how far in the course I was. For my eating plant, starting 10 minutes into the bike, I made sure to eat 100-125 calories every 30 minutes. Before I knew it, I had made it up the Route 80 hill, around Deruyter Lake, and I was popping out on Rt 13. Typically it takes me 2 hours to reach this point, when I looked down at my computer, it read 1 Hour 49 Minutes – I couldn’t believe it – 10 minutes faster than usual! I also had a moment of – “oh crap” – and hoped I was not pushing it too hard… (if you blow your legs out on the bike and leave nothing for the run, you’ve done yourself zero favors). However, after a quick inventory, I realized I was feeling pretty good so I just kept at it!
Once you’re out on Rt 13, the course intensity drops a bit since a majority of the climbing is behind you and if you’ve planned correctly, you can start to push things without doing too much damage for the run. On 13, one of the guys from my team passed me, after some quick cheers, onward we pushed. At the final aid station, with 15 miles to go, I grabbed a bottle of water to dump on my helmet and down my back to help cool off a bit and prep for the run.
As I hit Clark Hollow Rd, I knew I was closing in on the finish of the bike and the prep for the run. Onto Apulia Rd again and it was time for the last bit of food. The final two miles of the course was a no-pass zone, which is super frustrating when you just want to hammer it into the finish, but I chose to embrace the mandatory no-pass/slow down and I took this time to mentally prep for T2, and to try to lower my HR before hitting the run.
As I hit the dismount line, I was ecstatic, I knew I had just shaved off 15 minutes from my PR on this bike course! I also knew I was on target for a 6 hour 70.3 finish if I could hold my run together.
Official Bike Split: 3 Hours, 11 Minutes, 12 Seconds (…15 minutes faster than my prior course PR!)
Luckily T2 was much less eventful than T1 – quickly racked the bike, and it was off with the helmet, bike shoes, switched to my sneakers, hat, run belt and grabbed some gels to get me through the run.
Total T2 Time: 1 minute 56 seconds
As I saw my parents when I left transition, I started to tear up a bit, I was so happy that I had nailed both my swim and bike – I knew I was just 13.1 miles away from finally achieving the goal that I had set out to meet last year – but I quickly also convinced myself that I had to keep calm, keep it together, and run smart!
The running smart part had to kick in immediately. The exit from the park on the run course was changed this year and I had to focus on strategy for running without burning out. This year, the course left transition, wrapped around the finish line and then out to the parking lot. We ran around the bottom and far side of the lot, up an incline, through a path they made through the brush and popped out onto Apulia. As I made my way through this modified portion of the course, I kept easing back because my HR was going crazy. For the entire first 3.5 miles out on the course, as I dropped down Palladino, climbed the hill, and turned up the hill to Ransom Rd, I just kept slowing down trying to get my HR in check.
I knew this first section was going to be a struggle to slow it down, but that it would pay off in the end. As I made the first turn to head back to the park, I figured my HR would recover as I ran back down Ransom and Palladino. Unfortunately my HR did not really drop, this was a little strange since in my training runs my HR usually recovers nicely. However, unlike my training runs, this was (a) a race and (b) the temps were starting to rise up into the low 80s with a little wind, but luckily not a lot of humidity.
I had been coached to eat most of my nutrition during the first loop in case I couldn’t stomach the gels by lap 2. With this in mind, and with the increasing heat, I made sure to walk every aid station to drink water and also treat them like a small buffet. At mile 2.5 I ate my first gel, mile 4.5 I had the second, around mile 6 I just couldn’t bring myself to eat another so I grabbed an orange slice. This is probably where I should have forced the gel and waited on the orange – but honestly, eating an orange (aka Real Food) just sounded SO good. I finished lap number 1 strong. I was 1 hour into my run and was reenergized by the crowd in the park as I headed out for lap number 2.
For the run out to the turn for lap 2, I tried to pick up the pace a bit but still keep an eye on the HR. Even though I was down to the final 6-ish miles, there is still a lot that can go wrong. At mile 8, I had half a gel and decided that was the end of the gel consumption for me. Chomps didn’t really sound good either so I stuck just to orange slices and water for the rest of the run (the Perform electrolyte drink just doesn’t go down well for me – too sweet!).
At the turn of lap 2, I knew it was time to try and pick up the pace if possible and bring it home. Heading back down Ransom and Palladino hill I felt good, by the time I was running mile 11, I was running out of gas – I could tell the choice to go without electrolytes wasn’t a great one and I could have used a bit more fuel – but at this point there wasn’t much I could do but muscle through. When I hit the mile 12 sign, there was some small rejoicing in my head, but in the end, that final mile felt forever LONG. As I turned to drop down into the park to run the parking lot loop, I saw that I was 2 hours into the run. I knew I had to finish the run in under 2:10 to secure a sub-6 Hour time so I worked to turn up the running pace as much as I could muster (which honestly was not a ton).
As I hit the pavement for the final stretch into the finish chute, I managed to pick up to a faster pace, and as I saw the clock was at 7:02 I quickly subtracted the 1:05 delay in the start of my wave and knew that I nailed a sub-6 finish! I was elated and astonished that I had achieved a 70.3 race on the Syracuse course in under 6!
Last year, the finish line was a washout from severe thunderstorms that rolled in as I was finishing the race. I’m happy to report that this year was MUCH different.
Total Run Time: 2:05:36
Total Race Time: 5:57:54 (!!!)
My athlete tracker stats from race day:
A negative split on the bike and run! While the bike is easy to negative split due to the layout of the elevation on the course, I am proud of my negative split on the run – while the run was about 45 seconds/mile slower than expected, I think I ran smart given the circumstances. My faster bike split played a little role in the slower running, but so did the heat. I think I raced the best I could have on race day – and I don’t think that I would have run 15 minutes faster if I had slowed down by 15 minutes on the bike… however there is probably a happy medium that could have been struck by a slightly slower bike and a slightly faster run.
Honestly, I’m sure I could argue pros and cons to various decisions made throughout the day, but I am very happy with the way that the race all came together. I saw an 8 minute improvement over last year on the swim, a 15 minute improvement on the bike, and while my run wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, it certainly wasn’t terrible.
Just seeing the improvements that I have made during this cycle makes me want to see how much more time I could shave off, so I’m still feeling motivated to continue training! I think my biggest opportunity moving forward will be improvements on my cycling – there is still a lot of strength for me to gain there and now that I am getting settled with my TT bike, I’m excited to see where things go! But more on this later…
I thought I would close out this post with a few other random pictures garnered from last Sunday’s race:
First, my cheering section.
Second, the bling.
An awesome shot of the swim out on the course.
I finally finally finally met Laura! (We’ve been online friends for a year and a half now!)
Despite my best efforts with sunscreen… I now have a gnarly watch tan and a killer shorts/sock tan.
And that’s all folks! Thanks for following along in my journey, and stay tuned. I promise there is more to come! 🙂