June 22 I competed in my 4th half iron race, the Syracuse 70.3.  My training had gone fairly well.  I was out of shape when I got back into it in January after spending 7 weeks in SE Asia, but I was injury free through my preparation for the race and felt ready for it.  Heading into Syracuse I hadn’t heard the best things about the race or the course from people who had raced there last year, but they had uncharastically hot conditions to deal with that would make just about any race no fun.

Here is the condensed version of my race report, there’s also a more detailed version below:

Pre Race: Felt good and ready leading into the race, training was injury free and I was looking forward to getting to the start line.

Swim: Chaotic start, had to put on my big-boy pants because it was a lot more aggressive in my new age group (25-29) than my previous one.  Was a little slower than I hoped. 33:44

Bike: Felt really good.  Kept my power in check over the first 20km of climbing.  Dropped my chain once going up.  Made a fueling mistake at the end of my ride (took in too much near the end) that would negatively effect my run.  Happy to beat my goal time of 2:30:00.  2:28:38

Run: Stomach didn’t feel so good leaving transition.  After the first aid station I threw up a lot of fluid.  I walked the last part of the turnaround hill each lap.  Stomach was still unsettled by the end of the race.  Missed my goal time of 1:33:00.  1:38:51

Overall: Please with my day on the whole, it was a 12:00 PB.  My fueling mistake on the bike cost me on the run, but it wouldn’t not have made a big difference in my final placing. 4:45:25


Pre Race

Woke up early Saturday morning and was out the door to pick up Lisa and then continue onto Syracuse by 6AM.  We got to the race site around 11AM, picked up our race kits, checked out transition, did a quick 20min spin around the area, and got our bikes racked.  I love the vibe around a race site and was getting excited for the race.  After we finished up in transition we drove the bike course (which was easy to do because of the bright orange arrows painted on the road).  I knew from the course profile that the first 20k were a significant uphill, then the remaining 70k were net down back to transition.  I really liked how the bike course looked from the car, but I knew my feelings could be very different tomorrow when we did it on a bike.  After that we headed to an Italian restaurant for an early dinner at about 5:00PM and were back at the hotel by 7:00PM.

Race morning we were up just after 4:00AM.  I had a bagel with almond butter and honey for breakfast.  We left for the race at 5:00AM, and as it turned out it was good we did so because there was a long line of cars waiting to get into the parking lot.  I got transition set up and tires pumped and decided to walk some of my extra gear back to the car because I still had about an hour before my 7:50AM start.  At this time I still didn’t have a concrete goal for the race in the morning (I knew I’d give it all my effort, but I didn’t have a specific goal time and I have a hard time predicting my finish times based on my training because I race much better than I train).  As I was walking I decided I would be disappointed with my race if I didn’t go under 4:50, I’d like to go sub 4:45, and if I had a great race I could do sub 4:40.  There wasn’t a lot of science behind this, but I went 4:57 at Tremblant 70.3 last year and knew I wanted to improve upon this time.  With this in mind I made my way to the water, did a short warm-up, found Lisa on the beach (she had a 8:05 AM start) to wish her luck, and made my way into my start corral.

In my head my sub 4:40 time would have been made up of a 32:00 swim, 3:00 T1, 2:29:59 bike, 1:30 T2, and 1:33:00 run. 

Swim (33:44, 1:44/100m)

Moving up to the 25-29 AG meant I started with a much larger group, 155 athletes to be exact.  I had done a quick warmup and made sure my goggle weren’t leaking before getting to the start line.  We started in the water, I positioned myself towards the inside about 3 people back from the front.  One thing that was immediately apparent is that there were a lot more serious people in the 25-29 AG than 20-24.  I asked around about expected swim times to figure out where I should seed myself, but not too many people were willing to share information.  I decided to stay where I was and waited for the gun.

When the race started there was a lot of jostling for position.  A big part of this was because there were some very slow swimmers up at the front. A swimmers hand came down on the back of my head on two consecutive strokes, and there was a lot of bumping as people tried to find fast feet.  I just focused on staying calm and moving forward.  After a couple minutes the chaos had passed and I began focusing on my stroke; pulling hard water, rotating my body, keeping toes pointed.  I used a light flutter kick and did my best to follow a pair or feet, but that was made difficult by all the slower people in previous waves.  I by the turnaround I gave up on trying to draft and instead emphasized my stroke and swimming straight.  When I got within about 200m of shore I began repeating in my head what I needed to do in transition (helmet, glasses, shoes, nutrition, bike).  I also began kicking a little harder to wake up my legs.  I exited the water with a swim that I figured was alright, but I didn’t know my actual time (I don’t start my watch until I’m on my bike).  I found a wetsuit stripper and was off towards T2 happy to be heading towards my bike.

T1 (2:57)

I made my way into T1 and found my bike easily.  A lot of people in the rack around me and behind me were also in transition so it was a little congested, but I was able to get in and get out without much excitement.  I did grab a handful of jujubes to stuff in my mouth as I ran through transition to the mount line.

Bike (2:28:38, 36.39km/h average, 76th overall bike split, Chick’d on the bike = No!)

I knew I wanted to go sub-2:30 on the bike, which is a 36km/h average.  I also knew that I would be well behind this pace at the 20k mark because from about 4k to 20k the course climbs.  I had a goal power of about 220W, which is just over 80% of FTP.  I wanted to take it really easy through the climbing in the first 20k (closer to 205-210W) and then pick it up from there.

As I begin riding I immediately began passing slower riders, a trend that would continue for the entire 90k (that’s what happens when you start 50min later than some waves).  Just over 1k in I passed a guy in an orange jersey that immediately pulled in behind me and sucked onto my wheel.  At first I figured it was just a coincidence and he would either pass me or drop back, but he stayed there.  When we reached the start of the first climb I began snaking side to side a bit and sure enough he did the exact same thing.  I had never experienced such blatant drafting.  I turned my head and asked him if his race plan was just to draft faster riders all race and hope he wouldn’t get a penalty, but he didn’t even acknowledge me.  I was slightly frustrated, but I decided I wouldn’t let what he was doing ruin my mindset.  I tried to block him from my mind, but many of the other athletes I was passing were making comments to Mr. Drafter.  At approximately 8k the climb I was on flattened out a bit and as I was shifting into the big ring I dropped my chain.  Mr. Drafter was so close to me that his foot hit my rear wheel as he swerved to avoid me.  I pulled to the side and was able to quickly get my chain back on, this likely only set me back 30-40sec, but I began to worry if that would put my sub 2:30 bike split out of reach.

I crested the climb at the 20k mark in about 41:00 and at that point I was ready to go fast. Up to that point my AP was in the low 200W range, so I knew I had it in me to push a little harder and I immediately began to accelerate.  On my watch I had set a virtual training partner to ride at 36km/h average (what I needed to ride 2:30:00) so I could track how far behind I was.  Most of my focus through the final 70k of the ride alternated between how far behind the  36km/h average I was, and my watts.  I tried to keep my watts above 220W without exceeding 240W, except on a couple short, steep climbs.  I averaged 39.75km/h over the final 70k.

Throughout the ride my plan was to each 1 waffle every 30-35 mins and to drink at least 1 bottle of fluid every hour.  Between keeping an eye on my power, where I was vs. a 36km/h average, and ensuring I was passing other riders in a safe, legal manor I didn’t have the focus on nutrition that I should have.  By the 1:30:00 mark of the ride I wasn’t quite through 1 bottle of liquid and was only just finishing my second waffle.  I was feeling great on the bike, but knew this could spell trouble for the run.  I made a mental note to speed up my rate of consumption, but by the 2:00:00 mark I had barely put a dent into my second bottle of fluid and wasn’t done 3 waffles.  I wasn’t hungry of thirsty, but knew I should have been consuming more.

The final 4k of the ride was a no pass zone.  This was frustrating because I was still passing slower riders from earlier waves and ended up behind someone who was significantly slower.  Everyone was dealt the same circumstances, but I still wasn’t happy about it (mostly because I had a great bike split [for me] going).  And at this point I had a costly lapse in judgement.  I sat up from my aerobars, the first time in quite a while, and began drinking from a bottle.  Before I had realized it I had drank over half the bottle and knew all that liquid sloshing around in my stomach could spell trouble on the run.  This was a mental mistake that I wont make next time.

As I neared the mount line I began to worry about how I would run, but I was very happy with the 2:28:38 bike split I had managed.

Syracuse Bike

T2 (1:18)

T2 was uneventful.  I found my spot, racked my bike, took off my helmet, pulled on my shoes, and was on my way.

Run (1:38:50, 4:41/km pace)

Right when I left T2 I realized I had made a nutrition mistake on the bike.  The bottle of water I drank over the last 6 or 7k was not sitting well.  I felt uncomfortable and bloated.  I was able to keep my pace around 4:20/km through the first mile, but right after the first aid station I threw up most of the liquid I had just consumed near the end of the bike.  I was able to keep moving forward but my pace slowed and my stomach was really sore.  I continued to run until I approach the turnaround hill at the 5k mark.  I threw up again and the pain in my stomach had increased.  I was reduced to walking up this hill.  Mentally this became difficult to overcome.  At that point my hope of breaking 4:40 overall was lost and I began to get down about how much time I was losing. (All race I had 4 kilometers that I ran above 4:45 pace, that was my slowest one at 6:03/km)  After the turnaround I had a couple kilometers downhill where I tried to compose myself and just focus on running 1km at a time.  I saw Lisa running out towards the turnaround as I crossed the 7.5k mark, she looked strong and this gave me a little energy boost.

I reached the turnaround near the start-finish to head out for my second lap in about 49:15 (4:41/km pace).  At this point my stomach was still sore.  I hadn’t taken in any nutrition through the first lap of the run.  As I ran through aid stations I had poured water over my head to cool down but I hadn’t eaten or drank anything.  I didn’t have an appetite to consuming anything, but I knew I’d become a struggle just to finish if I didn’t force down some calories.  I picked up some coke at a couple of the aid stations to help fuel me through the final lap.  As I approached the turnaround hill for a second time I was once again reduced to walking.  I had taken coke at the bottom of the hill and it wasn’t sitting well.  I walked to the top of the turnaround hill, hit the turnaround and then just focused on getting to the finish.  I stopped looking at my watch and just focused on running as well as I could.  After the turnaround I saw Lisa again, and she still looked really strong.  I was doing my best to keep myself together but I could feel my energy levels reaching critical lows.  I managed to keep ticking off the kilometers and was very happy to reach the finish chute.  At that point I realized I wouldn’t meet my secondary goal of going sub 4:45, but there was great crowd support lining the chute and I tried to soak in as much of that excitement as I could while I crossed the finish line.

I finished the run in a disappointing 1:38:50, almost 6min behind my goal of 1:33.

Syracuse Run

Overall (4:45:25, 18th in 25-29 AG, 111th Overall)

I am pleased with my overall performance.  I managed a PB by 12:10 on what most would agree is a harder course than where I previously had my personal best (Tremblant).  A poor decision at the end of my bike cost me a couple minutes on the run, and that will hang over me until the next one, but on the whole it was a great day.

Syracuse Finish

Post Race

After the race I picked up a big plate of food, but didn’t have much interest in eating anything.  My stomach was still sore and I didn’t have much of an  appetite.  I headed to the finish line and waited for Lisa to come in.  I didn’t have to wait long as she smashed her old PB with a 4:52:11, good for 2nd in her AG and 5th female amateur!