Tuesday, April 19, 2011

About Ironman 70.3 New Orleans

The anticipation and build up for this event had grown to levels never seen before.  Training started, as most of you who follow me know, months ago.  This race was planned on my schedule at this time as a benchmark to see where my training is going, en route to Ironman Louisville 2011.


We arrived at registration on Friday.  Two days before the race.  The crowds were not to big, this was nice.  Waited in line behind two or three others but they moved right through.  Filled out the obligatory paperwork, you know the one where you promise not to hold the Ironman Corporation responsible for anything.... blah, blah, blah.  Next, we picked up the "athlete" package which included the bib and other "stuff".  Moved on to the I.D. bracelet where we were told not to remove it... or else.  blah, blah.  Picked up the tee shirt. which by the way, is really nice.  Registration done without any problems.  All set, registered, ready to go.


Quiet possibly the best Ironman Expo I've seen yet.  Granted this is only my third, but it was nice.  Not because they had plenty of exhibitors, because they didn't, but because they had a very large assortment of IM, IM70.3 and NOLA merchandise.  Just about anything you would want, they had.

I purchased a NOLA bike shirt and a NOLA visor.  That's all I really wanted.


On Saturday, we found our way to a spot we had been told we could get in the water and get a short swim.  Upon arrival, first thing we noticed was the condition of the water.  The wind, the waves, the white caps.  The water was rough.  It was choppy and it looked tough.  There were, however, several other groups of triathletes venturing into their wetsuits and into the mad water.  We opted to bike for about 30 minutes, run for about 15 minutes and then get in the water.

When we got ready to get in the water, some of the swimmers coming out told us how rough, but "doable", the water was.  We took a deep breath, counted to three (well, Skip counted to three, I counted to like a hundred).

Right before I jumped into the angry waters, I noticed that my swim goggles had broken.  Was this a sign to stay out?  Nothing doing.  I fixed the goggle as best as I could and in I went.

Yeah, it was as rough as it first appeared.  Swam with the current for about ten minutes, not to bad, and then turned around.  Then the fun began.  Having NEVER been in waters like this I was not prepared for what was ahead.  The first wave to hit me, hit me hard.  Knocked water into my repaired goggles and swallowed what appeared to be half the lake.  Not so much fun.

That happened twice again.  Then it occurred to me:  What if I just breath to the side opposite the waves?  Duh!  That made the rest of the trip in more manageable.  What took ten minutes in, took about fifteen back.  I was happy to be on solid ground again.

When done, we proceeded to go to transition to check our bikes in.  When that was done.  We were set.


One of the main reasons why I opted to jump in the water on Saturday was to get a feel for what it was going to be like on race day.  Had I not done this, having seen the condition of the water, I would not have rested; would have stayed up all night thinking about this and the day would have been shot.

Because I did venture into the water, I knew what to expect and therefore I had the best night's rest before an event...ever.  Slept like a baby.  As soon as my head hit the pillow I was out.  Woke up with the alarm clock at 4AM.


Arrived at the venue around 5:30am.  Promptly parked the car and walked to transition along with a massive number of athletes that were arriving at the same time.

The weather was cool, the winds were still strong.  We noticed the tree tops.  It was not pretty.  Our hope at this time was that within the next 45 minutes or so, the winds would give us a break.

Then we heard the announcement over the p.a. system:  "Due to high winds, measured at 20-23 knots per hour, we have canceled the swim.  We cannot get our safety personnel out, we cannot provide adequate support on the water, so we must cancel the swim".  WHAT?  First reaction to this announcement was total disappointment.  I AM ready!  Let's do this!  But once I got a chance to take a first hand look at the water, I was glad they did what they did.

Now we were just doing a bike-run.


The bike started with the pros at 7:30am.  Some thirty minutes after the original start.  The wind was still blowing and the temperature was cold.  After two hours of waiting I was cold, but ready to get this going.

Sometime during the wait, it occurred to me:  "Oh my... the winds are going to make this a very tough bike ride."

The bike start was done on a time trial format.  Two at a time every three seconds.  Again, I had never done this before.  Did not know what to expect.  Obviously I was not the only one doing this for the first time for there was tie ups at the start as everyone tried to jump in their bikes.  But we managed and got moving.

Right out of bike start we headed east, or west, not sure.  We turned right anyway, and the bike picked up speed.  Lots of speed.  Obviously we had the wind on our backs.  Oh, I was relieved.  This was going to be a nice ride.  Or so I thought.  For about 2 miles.  Then we turned around and headed back.  With a head wind.  For the next 28 miles...!

It was very tough to be spinning as hard and fast as you possibly could and see the speed go up to only 15-16mph... on dead flat roads.

After the turn around point the wind did come from behind.  Again the speeds picked up.  Garmin showing my speed to be around 28mph.  That must have been some wind.  "This is where I make up time" I remember thinking.  But that lasted for about 5 miles, maybe less.  Then after a right turn, it was back against the wind.  This back and forth game was to be repeated at least two more times.

We estimated that the head winds were upon us for about 60-65% of the race.

To add insult to injury, the condition of the roads were rough.  Pot holes, patches, bumps, debris, gravel, etc.  I saw no less than ten bikes with flats.  All due, I'm assuming to the poor condition of the road.    Not taking the wind into consideration I would have to give the condition of the road a "4.5" on a scale of 1-10.

"What if" scenario:  What if the wind had been calm?  What if the roads were in better shape?  What could I have done?  The course was relatively flat.  It would have been a very fast bike split.  What if?  It was what it was, however.

Garmin time:  3:22:10
Official time:  3:22:15
Rank in Group:  34/53


Bike IN was at the opposite side of transition from where I had my spot.  Other than still slow, not much happening here.


As usual and not unexpected, the run started fast, had to force myself into a manageable pace, once that was done, it was smooth sailing.

Somewhere around mile 6 I started doing some quick math.  I thought at that point that if I could keep this pace for the rest of the run, I could break 2 hours.  Well, I thought that for about two seconds.  I realized that if I tried to push it, I could possibly crash down the road; that was not the plan.  The plan was to have a smooth run, at a manageable pace.

By any account, it was be best run I've ever had at any triathlon relative to the distance.  I felt great and pain free.  I did not walk once except for walking through some of the water stops.  This in itself was a big accomplishment.  I found myself with enough "umph" left during the last mile to finish strong.  Except for the lady I almost crashed into close to the finish line, the run was great.  The course was wonderful, flat and  full of support.  Possibly the best aid (water, powerade, cola, fruit, snacks, ice, sponges) stations I have ever seen.  I would have to give the run course a "10" on a scale of 1-10.

Garmin time: 2:08:15
Official time: 2:19:30
Rank in Group: 31/53
Not sure why the big difference in Garmin time and Official time.  But I'm still very happy with this result for I improved the run by 24 minutes and 27 seconds!


Every event teaches me something.  From this one I'm taking with me the fact that racing with a "plan" is worth it's weight in gold.

During the bike, I could have been discouraged as it seemed everyone was passing me.  Every one in every age group.  I was not doing much of the passing.  I was spinning at my pace and was riding my plan as I was fighting the wind.  But I was not discouraged.

During the bike I learned that the Ironman "drafting" rule is NOT followed by the grand majority of the athletes.  Pelotons are formed and they ride together for great distances.  At least five passed me like I was standing still.  I thought at one point that the "rule" had been changed due to the wind and I had just missed the announcement.  So when one peloton passed me, I thought for a second that I would join them... then quickly I realized... "Not going to happen".  They were gone!

Biggest lesson learned (or reinforced at this point) is that if you have a good run, you have a great race.  A whole lot of the folks that stormed by me on the bike were walking early on on the run.

Overall Garmin time:  5:30:25
Overall Offical time: 5:48:30
Rank in Group:  38/53... transition must have been really, really slow.


  1. Great report! I like how you have a lessons learned section! Congrats on the event and I look forward to reading about your next adventure!

  2. Congrats on a good race and thanks for sharing report! At least you had some great wind training for Louisville! I fought similar nasty winds at Oceanside. Good luck getting back to training

  3. wow! way to go with it and not be discouraged. you really are an inspiration to me and how i need to approach my training and races :)
    thanks! -amber