Monday, August 2, 2010

Whirlpool Ironman 70.3 Steelhead

Lets dispense with the formalities right off the bat... Although not a blazing time by any stretch of the imagination and no where near a slight threat to anyone on the course last Saturday,  I still PR'd!  And because my goal coming in was to beat last year's Ironman 70.3 Augusta time, I am happy!
I came in race day with a plan.  I tried, for the most part to follow the plan.  Because plans need to be flexible, I was forced, at times to make certain adjustments which had I not, I would probably still be out there somewhere on the course.

We arrived in what we had thought was plenty of time.  Registration opened at noon.  We were there at 11AM... or so we thought.  The time zone had changed on us and we didn't realize it.  It was already noon. We were now on EST. Good thing we were there early because the line was already huge.
The registration could have used a bit more help.  A bottle neck was created due to only two people checking ID's at the front desk.  Once you passed this point it went smooth and fast.
"Course Talks" were scheduled every 90 minutes.  We waited for the one at 1:30pm.  In the mean time, we had pasta lunch provided to the athletes by Pizza Hut.  It was great!
Biggest news to me was the fact that this is a WTC and USAT sanctioned event.  No big deal except they kept emphasizing the difference in the drafting rules.  4 bike lengths.  They would be very strict on this.  Also, men would have to wear tops on the bike and the run.  They would be very strict on this.

Other than the Ironman shop, there really was not much to get excited about.

 We made it to transition around 3pm on Friday.  There was already a bunch of activity and plenty of bikes were being racked.  I have been accused of getting overly exited about the small things.  Finding my bike spot marked with not only my number, but also my name, was very exiting to me.  How cool was that?
The temperatures in the area had been very high, mid to upper 90's,  for the previous two weeks.  For race day it was predicted low 80's and 30% chance of rain.  The water temperature on Friday was 76ยบ.

We left the hotel at 5am.  Started raining about 5:05.  The temperature was cool, verging on the side of cold.  The wind as a bit gusty, the sky was covered with heavy clouds.  It did not look pretty.
At transition everyone was talking, including the PA announcer about the big system coming over the lake.  They were keeping an eye on it.  The race would start as planned.

One thing I learned is that you have to bring a "rain" plan to transition.  Even if you don't use it you gotta have one.  I did not!  I arranged all my gear under the only trash bag I had brought with me.  I hoped for the best, expected the worst.  I thought and just knew that I would have to do the entire event with wet gear.
I left my area as organized as I could.  Took my wetsuit, cap and goggles and headed to the starting line.  But it was still early, so I took cover under a passage way.  I was getting cold, wet  and felt miserable.  I think a lot had to do with nerves as well.
Most every athlete taking cover at this point was wrestling with their wetsuit.  I never realized how difficult it is to put on a wetsuit when you're wet.  Lesson #2 learned.  But when I finally got it on, I immediately started to warm up, and felt much better.
Now it was time to head to swim start.  Had thirty minutes to walk the one mile on the beach.

I arrived at swim start when they were playing the national anthem.  Which mean that I only had four minutes  before my wave would start.  This was a blessing because it didn't give me time to dwell or think about things.  Just got there and off we went.
The wave was very large.  Must have been 50 to 75 of us.  Men and women.  I waited a bit to get a spot in the back and to the outside.
The water was wonderful.  Just the right temperature, I thought.  Clear as could be.  Could see the bottom of the lake the whole way.  It also rained the whole way.
I followed my plan to perfection, maybe a little to perfect.  I wanted to go slow and smooth.  It took me 52:02 to finish the swim.  I still need to work on direction.  This was the longest 1.2 miles I've ever swam.  I wanted to do the swim in 45 min.  I will keep this as my goal for future races.

Taking of the wetsuit proved to be as difficult a task as it was putting it on.  Not sure if all the sand had anything to do with it, but it took me forever to take it off.
Getting the gear out of the plastic bag was another time consuming chore.  It had remained dry, for the most part.  But that didn't last, for it was still raining.  Total time in T1 was 8:38.


It continued to rain for the first 15-20 miles of my bike leg.  Everything was wet. The wind was getting cold.  The roads were slippery and the bike didn't like that.  My socks were soaked and I wonder if I'd have to run with wet socks?  I remember thinking that I have to train sockless.  This would be helpful today.
After the rain passed, the skies cleared and the sun came out.  It wasn't much longer before I was dry.  Even the socks were dry so I was happy.  At this point I cranked it up.
The bike course was nice.  Lots of newly resurfaced areas. Flat for the most part, slight rolling hills here and there and no big hills (that I can remember) to speak of.  A good portion of the road, however, was not in good condition.  Lots of holes and bumps and debris .  Saw at least 15 athletes fixing flat tires.
Oh yeah, regarding the drafting rule... only saw one judge and he did hand out a red card.  There were several pelotons that passed me.  Although illegal, it was cool to see this.
The bike-in portion of the course was amazing.  Coming in with the course lined with people yelling and cheering was surreal.
Total bike time was 3:17:24 which was a bike PR.

Not as slow as T1 but still slow.  6:33.  Trying to think back, I can't point at one thing which made it so.

After the run experience in Augusta last year, I ran the first mile or so very cautiously.  Feeling with every step, every muscle in my legs.  Wondering if at any minute I would cramp like I did before.  It did not happen.  When I realized that my legs would be okay, I set in my pace and went off.  And then there was the first hill.  A big, steep, long hill.  Made it up, no problem.
The course was nice and well supported.  Plenty of water, sports drinks, gels, fruit, ice, etc.
I ran the course as I had planned.  Slow and steady.  Walking only through the water stops.  Took an ice cup at each along with water on one and sport drink at the next.  The ice I carried with me to help me stay cool.  It was hot at this point.
The course took us through two loops of the Whirlpool campus.  Outside the campus, you would turn right.  Right into another mother of a hill.  Twice!  Walked up half the hill both times.
As I kept track of my time, I knew that if I could just crank it up, I could make my goal time of under 7.  Every time I did so, I would feel like I would loose my legs, so I gave up on the under 7 goal and went for a PR.
The road to the finish line was also lined with people.  Everyone yelling and screaming and encouraging everyone.  You would hear your name being yelled.  That was cool!
Total run time was: 2:43:57 which was a run PR.

As I made the final turn towards the finish line, I saw the official time clock.  I knew then that I had my PR.  Nothing else seemed to matter.
Total overall time was:  7:08:34.  A PR by 11:11.

On a scale of 1-10, I would have to give this event a 9.  The support throughout the race was fantastic.  The volunteers, staff and organizers did an outstanding job.  My hat's off to them!

Would I do this one again?  You bet!


  1. Congratulations on a well-run race! Other competitors also noted the organization and course as being top-notch. Always nice to hear about a PR.

  2. Excellent report! Thanks for posting. I think this moght be the one for next year! --Mary Z.

  3. I agree with everything you said! Also, I am pretty positive that I saw you out there. How cool! Congrats to you

  4. Thanks All... I appreciate your comments!
    "Everyhingness"... next time give me a holler!

  5. This is a very nice post, so informative and interesting. Thanks for sharing such a great post.

  6. I'm your newest follower! I'm doing Steelhead, and I'll probably do Augusta next year, so I appreciated your race report. It'll help on my planning...A LOT! Blessings to you as you train.