Race Report – IRONMAN 70.3 Syracuse

Settle in, this is going to be really long! I’ll do my best to break it down but there’s a lot to this one.

Rob and I headed into town Friday night. We got a bit too late of a start to get to the expo on Friday, but I had to go the next day for check in and he would be there all day Sunday, so it’s not like we wouldn’t see it. I spent all day Friday slowly gathering my gear and letting it accumulate on the living room floor. By the time we left town to head in Cuse I had remember everything but my waffles, of course.

Saturday was actually a good amount of fun. It started out with me heading out to pick up one of my Tri-Fecta FB group gals who was in town for the race from Atlanta. We had a fun time shopping at the expo and checking in together. We also met up with two other group members. See, between my AC trip in April and now this, it’s totally doable to make internet friends and become for realsies friends.

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Laura F, Lindsay, Laura B (who was my hang out buddy all day), and me after the athletes briefing.

It was nice to have other tri crazy people to hang out with. I also got to meet Anthony, who is a kick ass tri coach in the NYC area. He’s super awesome and you should check out his page. Seriously nice and very knowledgeable.

We got all checked in and through packet pick up, spent more money than I should have in the Ironman store, sat through the lengthy pre-race meeting where it made me feel like I was going to get slammed with a drafting penalty at some point during the race, and got our bikes all checked into transition. Afterwards I took Laura B out to drive the bike course. It was really good for me too, to see the course again before the race. Good mental prep to preview it again and remember some of the turns and where the big climbs and descents were.

After that it was all hanging out at home, eating lots of pasta, and going to bed when it was still light outside. Because a 3am wake up call comes super early. And I was out of bed by 3am, pulling on my tri kit and Garmin and grabbing my transition bag. At the pre race meeting they emphasized the importance of being early. And early we were. I rode in with my parents and we were parked at the Reservoir by about 4:15.

I helped my parents carry some stuff from the car over to the transition area and helped them scout out what we hoped would be a good location for them to see me coming and going from the race site. Then I went and got body marked and found my bike in transition. I was all the way in the far back corner on the very last rack. As far from the swim in/run out as possible but seriously right on top of the bike in/out.

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Took my time getting all my gear set up. I tied my hot pink Iron Girl towel around the rack next to me bike for easy spotting during the race, and found someone to let me borrow a tire pump. It helped that whoever was number 154 never checked in, so I had some extra space, not that I used it. I try to keep good transition etiquette.

After I was all set up I hung out with my parents and waited for Rob to get there. Laura B came over and hung out with us a bit too, which was nice. My family seemed to enjoy meeting her and chatting with her. Then before we knew it it was time to pull on wetsuits and head over to the beach.

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swim course view from a fellow Tri-Fecta member who was volunteering on the water.

Honestly, I waited as long as I could to head to the beach because that’s when I knew it would hit me. Up until that point I was completely calm and collected. Felt like any other triathlon, nothing to freak over. I wish I had gone down a bit earlier to get in the water for a minute to calm my nerves, but by the time I got down on the beach the pro men were already in the water waiting for the cannon to go off with the pro ladies toeing the lake’s edge and my swim wave gathering under the start arch.

It was in that moment on the beach that it all became real to me. I got a little teary eyed, feeling overwhelmed about going into my first half iron race. Not going to lie, I choked up a bit standing on the beach looking out across that long line of buoys.

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I’m on the far left, with two-three lady groups right in front of me. I’m the weirdo with my arm stuck up out of the water towards the front.

Once both pro waves went off in two minute intervals, they shuffled my 7:05 start wave into the water. The shallows gave out quickly and I was treading water, holding my Garmin up over the surface so as not to lose GPS signal right away. It felt like we were treading for forever, but it was really only about a minute. No cannon for us age groupers, the air horn sounded and off we went.

This was my longest open water swim to date so I was a bit apprehensive. I knew I could do it, just how well was the question. My adrenaline shot me through the first portion pretty quickly. There were seven yellow buoys on the way out and I just picked them off one by one as a way to break up what felt like a never ending sight line. I was doing alright carrying my free style stroke until some waves came along and I took in some water. I hacked it up and switched to breast stroke for a bit. This was about buoy five maybe and also the point in which my stroke started to fall apart. By buoy six the second AG wave had caught up to us slower ladies from the first wave and I started getting passed by white capped men.

I finally hit the turn around buoy around the 18 minute mark, so I wasn’t really moving too quickly. Along the back stretch heading to the second buoy it started to get clumped full of flailing bodies, but I managed to get through with only minimal contact. I felt like people did a good job spacing out for the most part, which was pretty helpful. At this point I had been flip flopping between free style and breast stroke some. I finally rounded the second turn buoy and immediately tried to count the orange buoys that brought us back to shore. Too many to count from that far out, so I went back to free style swimming and worked on picking them off again. After about two buoys I was starting to get tired. I was slowing down and at this point I was seeing purple caps as well. I was switching between free style and my default side stroke. My heart rate had been a bit higher than I would have liked the whole time in the water, but I kept calm and made forward progress without any stops, so I was happy to be honest. Although Coach Fish would definitely scold me for my flip flopping stroke the whole swim. Oops. I counted off nine buoys on the way back in and finally found myself scraping sand and able to stand.

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Clearly I got passed a lot. That’s a lot of different colored swim caps!

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I should have made sure to get a few good kicks in before exiting the water. My legs were a bit jello-y and I was bit disoriented coming out of the water. No idea where the timing mat was, but I lapped my watch as soon as I crossed under the swim exit arch- 47:24. Pretty much what I expect. My official swim time clocked at 48:22, so somehow I was a minute off. Whatever, still pretty much what I expected.

Seconds before I found myself getting disrobed by wetsuit strippers

Seconds before I found myself getting disrobed by wetsuit strippers

I yanked off my goggles and swim cap and right as I started to fumble with my wetsuit zipper a volunteer doing wetsuit stripping yelled for me to come over. The women quickly unzipped me, and her and another man grabbed the neckline of my suit, ripped it off over my arms and instructed me to lie down. I flopped onto my back and they grabbed my suit by the waist and whipped if off over my legs, stuffed it into my arms, and shooed me off. It’s a good thing they were there because I was struggling to get my fingers to work out the velcro over my zipper.

The run from the swim exit to transition was looong! I ran a few steps, walked a few steps, ran some more, ran through transition until I was in my row, then walked through the throngs of athletes to my bike. Throw wetsuit in heap under back tire, plop on ground and grab my extra hand towel, wipe off feet, pull on socks and bike shoes, spray on sunscreen, swig water and stick an extra pack of shot blocks in my top hip pocket, sunglasses, helmet, grab bike and off I went. Official T1 time was a solid and even 6:00 minutes. Stupid long run in. I wasn’t actually in transition for more than maybe 3 minutes.

bikeout

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Almost dumping my bike. Because wiping out before even getting to the mount line is fun.

All my family and friends had gathered by the bike out and were screaming for me. In my attempt to acknowledge them I almost dropped my bike. I really need two hands on my bike at all times.

The mount line was crowded! Does no one else take a running leap onto their bike!? I’ve been picked on for this before, but seriously, line of cyclist in a dead stand still fidgeting with your pedals, get out of the way! If you need to come to full stop to mount your bike don’t stop in the middle of the mount line. Because I hate you. And I will push out of my way. Move!

The bike course for Syracuse is hilly and technical, but not terrible. A lot of people who hadn’t previewed the course at all were squawking and nervous at bike check in and transition set up, but I actually don’t mind the bike course for Syracuse. It’ difficult yes, but rewarding and a fun ride overall. What makes it hard is that the first 12 miles are basically straight up hill. You hit the first big climb by mile two, so your legs aren’t warmed up yet.

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My Garmin elevation map. That first big climb, I think, is definitely the most challenging portion of the bike course.

Getting through those first 12 miles is slow going, that’s for dang sure. But after that it’s mostly rolling hills with only a couple more technical climbs. And the downhill stretch after those first 12 miles is the best. I clocked my fastest mile of the day on that stretch at 1 minute and 58 seconds. That’s a average speed of over 30 mph. I was hauling!

That big “V” dip just past the 20 mile mark too is a spot where a lot of people get hung up. It’s easy to hit over 50 mph on the downhill into it. I breaked though that particular downhill and hit my max speed for the day of 37 mph. And with enough momentum you can coast pretty far up the uphill part. Still a hard climb though.

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There’s one part of the bike course that Craig taught me to use to pace myself through the first half. In our practice ride we hit the light landmark at the 50 minute mark. I hit it on race day at around the 53 minute mark, so I was slightly slower on the front half of the course. This made me a bit nervous, but I knew the back half was fast enough to make up for this.

Overall, I was happy with the bike course. I really like and enjoy this particular course, which helps. As for my nutritional plan on the bike, it went a bit awry. I lost the bite valve off my aero bottle straw around mile 18, and it makes drinking so much easier. But whatever, I can deal. For some reason though my stomach felt full of liquid and sloshy, so I wasn’t eating as much as I should have. I only ate two waffle bits the whole ride and ate a whole pack of shot blocks minus one I dropped. As for liquid, I tried to make sure I carried everything I thought I’d need. My plan was to suck my aero bottle dry then stop and refill with my cage bottle. I was apprehensive about grabbing water on the fly through the aid stations after the aid station crash that killed someone at Musselman last year. But when I got to the first of three aid stations I was in a lull of cyclist and was able to ride through it and grab a water bottle. I used that to refill my aero bottle and was very happy about it. I managed to grab bottles on the first try through all three aid stations and never had to use my back up bottle. This meant I never stopped on the bike course, which was awesome and saved me precious time.

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The last 15 miles or so I was playing leap frog with an older gentleman with a big grey beard. Little did I know we’d end up being suffer buddies later on. He ended up in front of me for the mile long no pass zone on the tail end of the bike and I beat him back into transition. The no pass zone was a short stretch where the bike and run course overlapped. A lot of the fast riders complain about this, which I get, it’s annoying, but it’s not the end of the world.

I flew back into transition with an official bike time of 3:18:53, which is 8 minutes faster than my training ride on the course. In fact, I was back sooner than my family thought I would be and they totally missed me coming and going from T2.

T2 was quick-ish. Rerack bike, yank off sunglasses and helmet, replace with visor, pull off bike shoes and pull on my Zoots (love those quick laces!), grab another pack of shotblocks to stuff in my pocket, and off I went. Official T2 time was 2:18. A bit slower for me, but again, I was as far away from the run out as humanly possible, so I blame that.

The run. Oh the run. Let’s do some comparisons here. Ironman is notorious for having incorrect elevation information provided, be it their map profiles or the elevation gain. This was one of those times where they screwed up the map and I sincerely hate them for it.

IM-Run-Elevation

Here’s the official run map profile and elevation chart from the Ironman Syracuse website. Not too bad, only 400 feet of gain and the only real hill being that one that you run twice being it’s a double loop run. Okay, manageable. The rest looks pretty flat with minimal climbing, which I’m used to running.

Then here’s my Garmin map of the actual run profile.

actual-run-elevation

Yup, that’s a lot less flat than Ironman claimed. And the big climb suddenly looks a lot more terrifying. Oh, and Garmin clocked my elevation gain at almost 900 feet, more than double what Ironman claimed. Had I know the run was so different than what was advertised I would have had a different plan of attack going into it. My original plan was run the whole course except the hills, I planned to walk those and aim for a 2:30 finish time, which is an average of an 11:20/mile pace. Total doable for me, by a landslide had the run been as advertised. However, it was not. And I knew I was in for more suffering than I bargained for when just to get out of the park in the first mile you had to run up a nasty hill on grass and mulch. No, I did not sign up for a trail run, thanks though.

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I always ham for the cameras, but don’t let that smile fool you, I HATED running those grass hills.

By mile 2 I knew my plan for my run would probably fall apart at some point. I did my best to just keep running, but honestly, I walked a lot more than I had hoped for. I walked most of the uphills and ran all the downhills and what minimal flats there were. Again, my bearded buddy and I were playing leap frog on the run course. We ended up running together a lot, made friends and chatted together while running. There were some stretches were I think I did better than I would have alone having had a friend to distract me from everything. We ran together off and on the whole run until I finally pulled ahead and lost him for good around mile 9.

The first loop of the run felt daunting just because I was so caught off guard by the terrain and dreading doing it a second time. My stomach was a bit off feeling, probably from not eating enough on the bike. I grabbed a water cup at the first aid station and realized quickly it wouldn’t be enough. After that I started grabbing as many cups as I could through every station. Water, Perform, another water, another water again, orange slice, one more water for good measure. This became my strategy. Normally in a long run I eat a shot block around mile four then every two miles after that. In triathlons prior I put unwrapped blocks in my pocket, but the mid day sun had made mine soft and slimey, so I left them wrapped and ultimately didn’t care enough to pull out a full unopened package from my pocket. So I ate an orange at every other aid station and took in both water and Perform at every aid station. I took Coke at the turn around to help keep my sodium up. I had popped a salt capsule in T2 but didn’t bring anymore with me on the run and I wish I had since my calves were starting to get cramped.

The second turn around to start the second loop was parallel, just about, to the finish line. This was awesome for spectators.

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Seriously, how does seeing this not get you jazzed up as your running by. I have the most incredible and supportive husband, family, and friends. So lucky!

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Going in for high fives. That bearded fellow behind me was Gary, my leap frog riding-running buddy.

Seeing my family gave me a renewed sense of vigor going into loop two that I desperately needed. That second loop was tough. And there were still people coming in on bikes as I headed out onto the part of the course that overlaps the bike route. Made me eternally grateful for my early start time.

I kept doing a walk the hills and run the downhills and flats combo, but my average pace was still slowly slinking away from my goal. I had passed my 11:20/mile goal a few miles back at this point and had done a good job hoovering around 11:40/mile, but by the time I got to the base of the hill I had to climb a second time to reach the turn around point again I was creeping over 11:40 and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain that walking the monster hill. By the time I did hit the turn around my pace had crept over 12:00/miles and I was determined not to go any higher. I kicked my run into high gear as I hit the ten mile mark heading downhill. Being in double digits for mileage mentally made the run a lot easier to stomach. I grabbed water and an orange at the aid station, wrung three ice sponges over my head, and kept moving.

When I finally finished the last big climb back into the park, I started getting overwhelmed. The finish line was only a mile away, less than, and I was so close. I ran down through the grass, walked through the last aid station to grab one last drink, then kept running  until I crested up through the parking lot back into the athletes village. I looked up to see the finish line and saw the race clock was still under 7 hours and knew I’d make my goal time.

I passed one last guy who was walking as I entered the finish chute. I was alone in the chute and the moment was mine. I veered to high five my family who were all hanging over the chute screaming for me, threw my hands up and crossed the finish line smiling big.

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The photographers caught my entire wind up to my arms-in-the-air-woo. This isn’t even all of them!

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Official run finish time- 2:37:19. Only 7 minutes and 19 seconds over my goal time for the run at an average pace of exactly 12 minutes per mile. Not terrible.

Official finish time- 6:52:52. My overall time goal was sub-7 hours and I was ecstatic to have achieved that.

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A volunteer came up to me and slung a medal over my neck, quick photo snap, someone else handed me a hat while another volunteer undid my timing chip, then I grabbed a water and shuffled out to find my family.

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This race was a long time coming for me. I registered the day it opened last fall and I’ve had a long build up to it. Through injuries, the most brutal and never ending winter we’ve seen in a long time, and life conflicts. I didn’t train as hard as I would have liked, but even so, I came out of this feeling strong and still made my goal time.

The feelings I experienced when I crossed under that Ironman finish arch were the same feelings I remember when I crossed the finish line of my very first triathlon. Knowing that I am strong, I am capable, and I can do anything I put my mind to with enough motivation and hard work. It’s a truly incredible feeling that is so deep and overwhelming. It’s one of those things that is so hard to describe, but when you feel it you just know.

A huge thank you to everyone who has followed along with me through this. And I’ll probably have a second post for this, but no amount of thanks will ever let my husband, family, and friends understand how much it means to me when they come spend their entire day waiting to only catch glimpses of me coming and going from the race site. I don’t think I can ever put into words how humbling and grateful I feel having so much love and support with all my triathlon craziness.

I truly believe that everyone is strong
everyone is capable
and anyone can be a triathlete
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23 Thoughts on “Race Report – IRONMAN 70.3 Syracuse

  1. Laura F. on June 27, 2014 at 8:42 am said:

    Those were your shotbloks all over the road?! I saw them the entire ride…you weren’t they only one who lost them along the way! 😉 Great race! I had my own “Gary” along the way. Everybody needs a Gary on a run course like that! Still…a great day no matter what!

  2. Yay- congrats to you!!! i just did my first half ironman last weekend- it was quite the experience!

  3. Great race report and congrats on meeting your overall goal! I remember the emotions I felt when I crossed the finish line of my first half iron. How sweet it is! Now you will enjoy some down time (I HOPE) and not have to be so closely tied to a training plan.

    One tip to try…when you are moving your bike (for example out of transition), try steering with your hand on the saddle. It took me while to get it down, but I find it much easier to control than from the bars. Just a thought!

    Enjoy your weekend!!
    Lee@tri*inspired*life recently posted…Ironman Lake Placid Training Week #18My Profile

  4. CONGRATS TO YOU for not only finishing a half ironman, but also for coming in under your time goal!
    Caroline @ Fighting For Wellness recently posted…Cornfields and a 50 Mile Biking PDR!My Profile

  5. Congrats!! That is amazing!
    Alicia – Fitness By Alicia recently posted…Fashion Fitness Friday: BottomsMy Profile

  6. Beth Lahr on June 27, 2014 at 9:48 am said:

    Courtney this is awesome! I am getting teary-eyed reading it knowing that you accomplished your goal. I am so excited for MM in a couple weeks. You really gave me a boost to my spirit!

  7. Loved the recap, Courtney!! I totally super worried, too, about getting a penalty for drafting, and then it turned out that it wasn’t a big deal AT ALL. And super good idea about using something bright so you can find your bike in transition–I’ll remember that for my next race! I LOVED the wetsuit strippers! Seriously can’t imagine having to take off my suit on my own at that point! My T1 transition was 6 mins. too, and my second was 4 mins…..ugh, need to get better at moving quickly! Oh, and NO WONDER the run was so much harder than I expected it to be!!!! My stupid Garmin randomly died on me even though it was fully charged, so I didn’t have that info to look at afterwards, but now it all makes sense! I’m totally jealous of your awesome finish line pictures! I didn’t even think about the photographers as I was finishing, and I look like I am on death’s doorstep! Haha! Thanks for the chance to reminisce about the race one more time. I’m still riding the high! 🙂
    Leah @ Running with the Hayneses recently posted…Friday Five in PicturesMy Profile

  8. Awesome recap!! Way to come in under your goal.
    I always map out any new race I do on Mapmyfitness. I love how some race sites say the course is “slightly hilly” only to map it and see that it’s ALL HILLS and not rolling at that!

  9. Love love love this recap! I felt like I was right there with you, Courtney! A huge congrats on beating your goal time, you crushed it girl! I could relate to so much of your race… Sloshy stomach, running buddy (makes all the difference doesn’t it?!)… I have heard Syracuse is a tough race and you showed them who’s boss:) I love the photos of you going down the finish chute… Finishing your first 70.3 is something you’ll always remember. You should be so proud of yourself!
    Kristin @ SweatCourage recently posted…10 Day You Challenge! + 10 SecretsMy Profile

  10. This is amazing!!!! I was so excited reading this, especially when you only had 1 mile left! That is the best feeling of any race but I can’t imagine doing it in a goal race like this. Congrats on coming in under your goal time and on being such a badass 🙂
    Kristen recently posted…Friday Five: 5 Things About Me – Alaska Edition!My Profile

  11. Inspiring race report! I’m signed up for my first 70.3 and am a bit scared! I enjoyed reading your blog and race report. I hope to read more. Great job!
    Michele @micheleontherun recently posted…Maumee Bay Olympic TriMy Profile

  12. Loved reading this. Great job and awesome time!!! Yay.

  13. I enjoyed reading every word of your recap. Really made me tear up at the end, knowing how it feels to accomplish something so challenging and all the emotions that go along with that. I trained for my first 70.3, white lake, this past winter/spring. Four days before my event I came down with the flu. A friend drove me down to the race the day before, anyway, i still was thinking maybe. Five a.m morning of race I had to realize there was no way I could do it. No way, I barely had energy to walk to car. We did watch four hours of the event, it was awesome watching the athletes. I haven’t decided on another 70.3 yet. Reading your account brings so many emotions back! My next event is a 13.1 in august. Thanks for the inspiration and Congratulations! Great work!

  14. Congratulations!! You’ve got me in tears over here reliving my own first HIM and experiencing yours! You did awesome and I love love your pictures. I can’t wait to do my next one, although Syracuse is not at the top of my wish list, that 1st hill looks crazy and 50mph downhill, yikes! So happy you met your sub-7 goal! Great recap, congrats!
    Gabi @ LeanGreenIslandGirl recently posted…Friday Favorites: Busy Day EssentialsMy Profile

  15. I felt like I was on the edge of my seat reading this entire recap. First off, again, I can’t say this enough, Congrats, you are AMAZING and I am in awe! Also, you really don’t take a bad race pic (total opposite of me!!) HA! You did an incredible job and met your goal, which is always such an amazing feeling!! YAY!
    Sara @ lifebetweenthemiles recently posted…Six PlacesMy Profile

  16. Hi! I found your blog through the race recap linkup on The Silvah Lining! I loved your recap! 🙂 I did my first sprint triathlon last summer and it was a really empowering experience, although I can’t imagine ever doing a half Ironman!! Congratulations!

  17. Love, love, love your race recap! I am just in awe of what an amazing athlete you are. I am also in awe of how amazing you look in all of your photos. Seriously, I do not look that good during a run. Congratulations on beating your goal time!
    Heather recently posted…Marathon Week 2My Profile

  18. Awesome job lady!! Such an awesome recap!
    The Famous Mudder recently posted…Week 15 RecapMy Profile

  19. I absolutely loved this race report, Courtney! Congratulations on a strong race and finish. I am so happy and proud of you for meeting and surpassing your goals and expectations. I love all the smiles and positivity in your pictures – you make it look so easy. ☺ The course looks beautiful and you sure had some nice weather to go along. The next race I am doing has a bike course similar in that it starts out with a big climb – looks challenging. I can’t wait to see what is in store for you next!
    Kristen @ Glitter and Dust recently posted…Top Ten Finish At The Pacific Crest Olympic TriathlonMy Profile

  20. Courtney you’re amazing! And you have some of the best race shots I’ve ever seen! Great recap.
    jill conyers recently posted…Finding Joy In the NowMy Profile

  21. Congrats on your first Half IronMan!!! What an amazing accomplishment & you looked great doing it! Thanks for sharing on the Race Recap Link-up!
    Jessica @ The Silvah Lining recently posted…Race Recap Link-up {1}My Profile

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