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Ironman 70.3 World Championship Race Report

Ironman World Championship

My eyes began to open during athlete check-in.  That was the first time I realized I was truly at an international event.  I mean, I know Ironman 70.3 World Championship was a true World Championship but I just didn’t appreciate it until that moment.  Standing in line, waiting for my athlete packet, all I could hear was well, not English.  Pretty sure I heard German, French, and Spanish at least.  Looking around, I began to notice the little things that differentiate between cultures from around the world.  A scarf here, an odd-looking hat there, and so on.  Oh, and more ripped legs than you could shake a stick at.  Everyone looked like they had calves the size of large grapefruits and a vascularization that would make a phlebotomist drool.  Yeah, this is going to be cool I thought…

Pre-Race

Arriving Thursday enabled me to get the “house-keeping” matters handled.  I did a pre-ride to ensure the bike was ready.  I checked in.  I went to the food store.  All the terribly sexy and exciting things one does when traveling to race.

On Friday, I did have a few fun things.  Most importantly, my family was arriving from Phoenix that day.  As nice as it is to have a break from my day-job, the one with “Daddy” as the title, I missed them.  I also was doing a brief ride with some of my Wattie teammates.  It is always fun to hang with some of my fellow Wattie Inkers!  Lastly, was a quick stop at a Wattie Team pool party to grab my new racing kit (it is SICK!) and socialize.  Beyond that though, I just stayed off my feet, kept hydrating, and relaxed as I knew that on Saturday, the fun would begin in earnest!

Waking early Saturday morning, I headed down to the swim venue for a little prep-swim.  During the race, I would be wearing my new BlueSeventy Swimskin and I was very excited to give it a try.  The swim was awesome, but the water was nasty.  Why WTC thought that Lake Las Vegas (aka Lake Las Cesspool) was quality enough for the Half-Ironman World Championship is beyond me.  The water is totally opaque.  It smells.  To top it off, it tastes like dirt.  In short: nasty.  A quick 20-minute run after my sewage swim and I was ready to get off my feet.  A little college football, final race preparations, and family time found me ready to hit the sack for an early rise.

Race Day

Ironman World Championship Swim

I felt great when waking but quickly knew I was in for a different day than planned as, when I opened the blinds, I could see water everywhere.  It was raining.  And, not that “desert sprinkle” that often happens this time of year (you know, a ten-minute downpour that leaves no residual evidence of its occurrence) but rather a constant New England style rain.  There was already water flowing in the gutters.  So, that’s happening I thought.  At least it would dampen the temperatures some.  Showering, eating a small breakfast, and last minute prep left me excited and ready to head to transition.

Reaching my bike, I was happy to see the What If garbage bag and towel still in place.  I had covered my drive-train and cockpit and both were amazingly still dry (well, dry-ish).  I quickly prepped my bike and hurried for shelter.  Being one of the later waves, as crazy as it sounds, I didn’t want my core temperature to drop at all.  Luckily, I snuck into the entry room of one of the start-line condo developments, sat on the floor, and waited.  Eventually, my awesome family got there so I got some Good Lucks before heading to the swim start.  Seeing them always makes me smile and reminds me why I do these ridiculous things.

Swim

With hours upon hours of rain, the swim start area reeked of human waste even more than the previous day.  Awesome right?  Uh, no.  Immediately upon entering the water, I quickly headed to the start line (about 100 yards away) and stood on the shore, out of the water, waiting for my wave to start.

There weren’t many negatives from the weekend but the swim start showed one of them: ridiculous competitiveness.  Look, I get it.  You are fast.  Good for you.  You think you might “win” today.  That’s great.  But, it doesn’t entitle you to be an ass or cheat.  Sorry, but it just doesn’t.  So, when the PA said “30 seconds” and nearly half of my wave started swimming, I just chuckled and let them go.  My plan was to finish and have fun.  Beyond that, I was care free.  Given that the whole day took me well over five hours, I was ok giving those psycho-Type-A dudes a 30 second head start.

The swim is shaped like a flattened rectangle with the first part being an 8-buoy leg, followed by a short 1-buoy leg, and the final stretch of a 10-buoy leg.  For the first leg, I swam comfortably but quickly.  Given the skill of nearly everyone racing, I was able to find feet for drafting the entire first leg.  I’ve never done that before and it was very cool.

The second leg passed uneventfully and quickly and on the third leg, I decided it was time to go.  Feeling great and settling into a good rhythm, I began to increase my intensity.  Normally, at this level of effort, I am seriously moving past nearly everyone in the water.  At this race though, I was almost laughing that I’d gain maybe an inch or two on nearby swimmers.  I was again reminded that everyone at this race was fast.

Nearing the end of the swim, I just wanted out of the water.  It began to smell more and more as I neared the swim exit.  Shockingly, this inspired me to swim faster!  Reaching the exit, I sprang out of the filth… uh, water… and began to sprint towards Transition.  My swim time was 33:38, good enough for 51st in my age group (out of 280) and 541st overall (out of 2463).  Given that everyone had told me it was a slow swim and some friends who are seriously elite athletes swam a 33 or slower, I am extremely pleased with my swim.  (A bit of comedy here, my mom declared to the Facebook World that I was 5th fastest in my age group.  Um, no.  She swore that’s what the results said though.  Well, she was searching people in my age group with the last name starting with “B”.  So, if your last name starts with B, you have an XY chromosomal set, and you are 40-44 years old, only FOUR of you beat me.  I know, truly impressive.  Thanks Mom.)

Ironman World Championship Bike

Transition 1

The run from swim exit to the bikes is well over 200 yards.  Combine the rain with the fact that it is over dirt and grass and you have one messy, muddy, and slippery sprint to your bike.  Still, I was in and out of T1 in 3:39; a great time given the set-up and conditions

Bike

Here’s where I knew my limitations as a cyclist would be exposed.  I literally was getting passed during the first mile.  Granted, it was pouring rain, the roads were wet and slippery, and I was more interested in enjoying myself than really racing but wow.  There were male and female cyclists blowing past me like I was a motionless statue.  It was crazily impressive at times.

The bike course is rollers, rollers, and more rollers.  There’s basically no flat sections of any note; you are either ascending or descending the entire time.  No big hills really, just lots and lots of rollers.  Other than the annoyance of the rain and road spray, the bike was pretty uneventful.  I sipped on some PowerBar Ironman Perform and ate three PowerGels.  The two things I noticed were, one, the rampant drafting all over the place.  I am all about being competitive, but I saw pelotons thirty-plus strong.  Seriously people, at least pretend to comply with the rules…

The second thing, and this falls right in line with the drafting, was that far too many athletes were hyper-serious.  Even in a serious race, I like to have fun and chat at times.  Maybe I was too slow.  Maybe I had a sign on my back that said, “I am an asshole”.  Whatever it was, few people seemed to have no time even for a smile.  Don’t get me wrong, I can be extremely competitive and focused.  But, even when I am like that, I still take time to enjoy life and smile at people.

Ironman World Championship Run

Aside from all that, I found the bike to be rather pleasant.  I had a new World Championship racing kit from Wattie Ink helping me look awesome and my ISM Adamo kept my sensitive areas feeling awesome.  Topography-wise, I like hills so the rollers were great.  The rain, while annoying, wasn’t that big of a deal and it largely kept the temperatures mellow for a while.  The only drawback was that by about mile 20, my drivetrain was bone-dry.  The rain washed away all the lubricant from my race day cleaning and the last 30+ were full of metal-on-metal squeaking.  A rather grating and frustrating sound when you happen to be the cyclist.  But, on the cool side, I did get to talk with people from Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Chile, and a few other countries.  That was definitely a first for me and very, very cool!

Sadly, as I neared the end of the bike, the rain ended and the clouds parted.  This brought out the summer heat while creating a nice sauna effect as evaporation started.  An unpleasant double-whammy of heat.  Sigh…  I knew it was going to be a hot and tough run during the last ten miles of my ride as these conditions intensified.  My final bike split was 3:02, dropping me into 197th in my age group and 1,234 overall.  I am not actually that surprised that a whopping 130+ age groupers passed me.  Some of the athletic prowess was truly remarkable.

 

Transition 2

Executing a flying dismount, I handed my bike to a volunteer, grabbed my run bag, and plopped down in the changing tent to don my running gear.  1:52 later, I was on my way to the run course and feeling great!

Run
The three-loop course, as you can see from the graph, is a little hilly.  You basically are either running up or down a minor grade, with very few flat spots.  Not an easy stroll, especially with mounting temperatures and rising humidity.  Oh well, if it were easy, it wouldn’t mean anything.

Ironman World Championship Run

As I said, my goals were to finish and have fun but I did want to be proud of my run.  Given that Ironman Lake Tahoe is exactly two weeks later, I wasn’t willing to bury myself but I didn’t want to walk my way to a 2:45 either.  I wanted to run, have fun, and stay comfortable until I could start smelling the barn.

The first loop, I feel I executed perfectly.  I ate a PowerGel right away, kept my speed consistent, and didn’t push at all.  At each aid station, I dumped water all over myself and grabbed some ice.  Staying cool and keeping my core temperature from rising would be critical.  My family had positioned themselves in the first part of each loop, so I got to see them two times in the first 1.5 miles and that was amazing.  I am incredibly lucky to have the support and love they give me!

As the race progressed, it unsurprisingly got more challenging.  The heat and humidity worsened and, of course, there was a little fatigue making itself comfortable in my body.  But, overall, I felt great.  Dumping copious amounts of water (and sometimes ice) all over myself at each aid station helped cool me and, thanks to my KSwiss Kwicky Blades, that have holes built-in, my feet didn’t get ruined.  I didn’t have any notable moments.  I just did my best to enjoy each and every moment as well as I could.

Ironman World Championship Run

Thanks Randy for being there with Trey!

Reaching the finishing chute was incredible.  I got to high-five my son right before the finish line and I could see and hear my family waiting for me.  My final run time was 1:52, putting me in 186th place in my age group and 1,210 overall. My final race time was 5:33, a seemingly and stunningly slow half-ironman time.  While, at first blush, those numbers aren’t really that impressive, a buddy said to me that being the 186th best IN THE WORLD is pretty remarkable.  And, you know, what?  I kinda agree with him!  🙂

Thanks to all of those that have supported me and made this day possible for me:  My wife has always been there and enabled me to buy more stuff than I ever should have, train more than is probably necessary, and travel to these incredible events.  My family, immediate and more, has always been a big part of my cheering section.  They are always there but this time, they had to travel: My dad and in-laws all came from Phoenix, my Step-dad came from Southern California, and a good friend (who’s pretty much been to every big race I’ve ever done) came from wherever he was that week (maybe Nebraska, maybe Kansas, and even possibly over-seas).  Never has a better “Triathlete Sherpa” ever existed.    Wattie Ink, my teammates, and the team’s partners for helping me pursue my goals.  Bill and Anne Wilson, of Camelback Coaching for teaching and molding me into the athlete I am today.  Triple Sports for being the best tri-shop on the planet.  And lastly, my kids for being my inspiration, drive, and motivation to be the best that I can and give my very best when it matters.  Thank you all so much!

I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I enjoyed racing to have something to write about!  🙂Ironman World Championship Finish

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