It finally happened! After many covid related stalls and reschedules, I finally got to race a 70.3 distance race this weekend. So glad to check that box and no longer feel it hanging over my head. That was a lot of training — and I was glad for it. No way could I have pulled this off without the structured training plans and coach’s work.
I learned a lot — and I confirmed that no great game plan survives the actual event. Definitely had some learning moments out there 🙂 And those were learning moments, not excuses. On race day it is what it is. If/when I do this again, I will definitely have a few adjustments.
I finished at 6 hours and 7 minutes. The tl;dr version is the swim and bike portions went well and the run became a struggle at the end.
My wife and Aunt and Uncle were there to cheer us all on during the day and I got to do my first Ironman event with friend and fellow Finding Fast teammate Leslie Beahm (her race report will be here very soon as a guest post!),
Read on if you want more words. Warning, there are a lot of them.
This race starts early. Like, stupid early. Transition opens at 4:30 AM. They said transition would close at 5:45. However, it seemed like around 5:30 AM they were starting to call up the swim waves which caught me off guard.
I opted to wake up at 4 to take care of breakfast, coffee, and bio necessities. Plenty of time, right? Oops.
I didn’t anticipate stumbling into bike mechanical issues, though, and as a result ended up scrambling last minute and then feeling rushed when my swim wave was called up around 5:45. Rushed enough that I forgot to grab my water and food I planned to consume while standing in line waiting to swim. Doh.
The Swim: 40:01 / 42 out of 127 for age group.
Here’s something I never thought I’d say: The swim was probably my favorite part of the event. Water was a fantastic temperature (for me) in a wetsuit. Never felt cold or hot.
Swim starts with a 25 yard water run to get over the first sandbar and then we were off to the races. Close to shore the surf was very calm and quite lovely. As we got out deeper, it got more “lively” and interesting and there were some interesting currents. The waves out deep were far more active then they appeared from shore and we got moved around a bit.
I had to stop a few times: Once because my goggles got punched off my face, and twice to just time the waves so I could find my next buoy to target. All 3 were short stops and I’m pleased with the swim results.
I started in the 40 – 44 minute group and spent a lot of time in traffic and passing folks. In hindsight, I should have started in the previous wave and then I would’ve been off the back and maybe not in as much traffic? Not that it made a huge difference overall.
Transition 1: 9:05
This was a disaster and I can’t really account for all that time. The first two or three minutes of it were the run up the beach and stripping off my wetsuit. Then a quick potty break — which became a really long potty break when I managed to get a double knot tied in my tri shorts.
I wasted several minutes trying to get the knot off, but had no glasses on and really couldn’t see what I was doing. Ran to my bike and put on my sunglasses and tried again, but frankly my sunglasses are an old prescription and I still couldn’t see what I was doing. Finally gave up and decided to hope for the best. At that point I was pretty convinced I wouldn’t be able to get those shorts off even if I really wanted to. This is when I realized getting my nutrition right was going to be really important or things would become a literal shit show.
Bike: 2:45:07 / 20.48 mph / 47th out of 127 for age group
Bike course is generally flat. Not as super flat as you’d expect, but definitely not hilly. 28 miles out, u-turn, 28 miles back.
I had fun and spent a lot of time trying to just reign it in and stick to the plan. Without coach and her game plan I would have ran this a LOT faster. Glad I didn’t, though. Had fun and made a lot of passes (oh, don’t worry – they all passed me back on the run. Plenty of passing to go around).
I had a couple of generic dasanti type water bottles behind my seat. Lost them both on a bump. Doh. All that left me with was my Gatorade endurance mix in the front tank. I can’t use that to wash down food so I couldn’t eat anything until the first water station at 15 miles.
Grabbed a bottle at 15 miles, took a good drink, ate a bunch, washed it down with more water and tucked the bottle into a rear cage. Swung out into the rougher part of the road for a pass and immediately lost the water bottle — and, this time, also tossed a bunch of sport beans and gummies out of my top tube box onto the road. The guy behind me was pretty amused, “Hope you didn’t need any of that!” I felt like I was in Mario Kart.
Made it another 15 miles for more water and this time got smart and tucked the bottle into my jersey. Managed to spend the final 25 miles getting caught up on water and nutrition and figured I was good to go for the run.
Next time I’ll only use real water bottles in the rear bottle cages. Definitely a lesson learned.
Transition 2: 4:45
Nothing too crazy for this transition, thankfully. Took a little extra time to finish a water bottle from the ride and took a bite of the stinger waffle I had planned to eat before the swim.
Oh, and took a minute or so to slather on a bunch of suntan lotion. The sun was shining and I was nervous about my sleeveless jersey.
Run: 2:28 / 11:20 min/mile / 79th out of 127 for age group
Remember I commented about passing a lot of people on the bike? Yeah, this is where I saw them all again as they roared past me on the run. Tri races keep you humble.
Run course is 3 laps and very flat. 4 water stations per lap. Not super exciting and precious little shade.
I started out running way too fast. My legs just wanted to go! I spent most of the first lap consciously focusing on slowing down my pace. I spent the rest of the run just watching my heart rate and working on staying in zone 2 and not blowing up.
By lap 3 I was pretty much over it and my knees were absolutely killing me. Pace dropped a bit there and I did a few short walks.
Every water station I drank more water, took a sip of gatorade, and then filled my hat with some ice and dumped the rest down my back. In spite of my hydration bobbles earlier in the race, I must have been hydrating fairly well as I did have to hit a porta-potty middle of lap 2.
The final run up to the finish line was fantastic and and it felt so good — and a bit dazed — to be done!
My A goal was to beat 6 hours. B goal was 6:30. Coach’s game plan gave me an estimate between 6 and 6:20. So, in spite of my struggles, there really weren’t any surprises when it was all said and done. I didn’t nail my numbers but I was damned close and I am damned happy with that.
Will I do another?
Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning I was firmly in the “Oh hell no. Never again,” mindset. Today? Yeah… I’ll probably do another. But first I want to spend some time focusing on the gravel races and dump a bunch of weight. I figure 15 – 25 lbs. less of me on the run would be wonderful on my knees, you know?
I don’t know if I will ever do this race again though. The waves were low, the temp never got over 80 and the humidity was (I think) around 40% or lower. What are the odds of ever having such perfect conditions here again?
Oh, and that double knot in my shorts? After the race my shorts almost literally fell off. I was definitely NOT trapped in them. So that was much fuss about nothing.
5 replies on “Ironman Gulf Coast 70.3”
Great read. You did it ! Dad
You did great. I’m so proud of you. You were exciting to watch. Wish I were there to cheer you on. Next one… Wisconsin during a freak summer storm.
Ha ha ha! Nope!
[…] for the Spring/Summer. And that one is going to be a lot tougher course than this year’s Gulf Coast 70.3, that’s for sure! Colder water and the bike course is definitely not flat. Looking forward to […]
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