Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Racine WI 70.3

IM 70.3 Racine, WI
Short Story: Redemption from Goose Pond Half Iron DNF with a solid 5:12:08 finish.  No better PR than doing what was not possible before.

Long Story: Travel - With IronMan Wisconsin looming September 7th Tri Coach Lisi suggested a short tune up race about 8-6 weeks prior to the main long distance race.  After some searching it looked like Racine WI 70.3 would fit the bill and allow the trip to double as a visit with family all over Wisconsin.  I was in and out of meetings when I decided on which race to do so I asked Amanda to do the registration for me.  When I was released from the meetings I got the message from Amanda that I was indeed registered....and she was to!

Tri Travel Kit
Race day was scheduled as July 20th so to allow for travel time and settling in we broke up the drive into one long day Huntsville - Orfordville and then Orfordville - Racine.  Huntsville to Orfordville, where my aunt Joan lives, is about a 12 hour drive. We took our time with a late 7:00 AM start, lots of pre-race hydration, stops at state line rest areas, and eating whenever we felt the need.  The truck was set up with the two bikes in the bed along with our new 'tri box' and for the most part the weather was good for travel (just rain in HSV).  The day was basically spend driving, listing to 90s on 9, and trying to plan a fall trip to Italy.

TN Rest Stop
Kentucky Cracker Barrel
Illinois Rest Stop
We arrived in Orfordville around 7:30 PM and were greeted at Joan's house by uncle Dennis (Joan's husband) and aunt Becky and uncle Bill.  We had a good dinner of fruit, veggies and BBQ (that is sloppy Joes for those of us in the south) and were asked the hundreds of questions long distance triathletes always get asked.  Do you stop?  Do you sleep?  How can you do that for XXX hours?  Is it hard to swim the distance?  Doesn't it hurt to ride on a pointy bike seat for hours and hours?  Are you worried about death and dismemberment?  All good conversation that led to a late bed time.

Woke up late on the 19th (8:00) to get a quick breakfast and prepare for the 2 hour drive to Racine.  Packet pickup and bike drop off were open 9:00-5:00 so we took our time and stopped in Racine for a quick bite of pasta.  By pasta I meant pizza.  By pizza I meant a large-deep dish-super cheese-all kinds of toppings-crazy thick bread-delicious pizza.  We ate until we were full then had another piece just to make sure.  Terrible idea.  Crazy good pizza.  Our next stop was packet pickup were we stood in line for an hour to get our race number then in 20 other lines for 15 minutes to get packets, swim caps, swag, and race numbers.  While in line we got to talk to several of the other athletes who had done the race in years past making the wait not quite as long.  I hear this a lot but will say it again - sure would be nice of IronMan could figure out a way to get packets that would not make EVERYBODY tired the day before the race!

IM Village
From packet pickup we headed down to apply race stickers to the bikes and drop them off in our transition spots.  We brought our wetsuits and decided to head out for a swim and check out the path from water to transition.  The swim was taking place in Lake Michigan which is currently 61 degrees!  A week out I had been checking water temps and 61 was WAY up from 53 degrees earlier in the week.  I really wanted to use my sleeveless wet suite (I get better arm extension and its not as tight as my full wet suite) but there would have to be a trial run in the water before race day.  We put the suites and caps on and headed out for a quick swim.
After Swim Picture - BRRR!

Bike Drop Off

WOW THE WATER WAS COLD!  It is a telling sign when the first step in the water makes you want to get right back out.  We dove in and headed out to a buoy that was about 300 yards from the beach.  Face was numb, arms were numb and feet were numb.  Getting to the buoy was literally the fastest I have ever swam in open water and I was still never able to warm up.  We stayed in for about 15 minutes.  Amanda only had a numb face from the water and seemed to think it was okay with a full suit.  Getting out of the water had my exposed skin feeling like it was just taken out of an ice bath.  Indecision of sleeveless or full wet suite was settling in...  After drying off and warming up we checked out the walk from swim finish to transition.  Solid .3 miles.  T1 is probably going to take a minute...
Saw this guy at the hotel.  Signs make
complete sense.

It was getting later in the afternoon (5:00) so we headed to check into the hotel and unload the truck.  We were still reeling from the pizza monster at lunch and were having a hard time deciding what to eat for dinner and where to go.  For the first time in the trip my nerves were starting to get to me and I really had no appetite.  I stayed busy getting equipment ready for race day and then we headed out for a quick dinner.  Pretty much forced the food down and got back for some sleep as soon as possible.  no problems sleeping and was out almost instantly.

Pre-Race Prep
Race Day -  Woke up around 4:15 to pack up and get ready for transition at 5:00 AM.  Everything was packed the night before so we got a quick shower and hoped in the truck.  I was starting to get even more nervous about the race start as we tried to find a parking spot and get into transition before
it closed at 6:30.  I brought both wet suites but decided to just bring the sleeveless to transition and suck up the cold.  Transition space was tight but manageable.  I was trying to eat something before the race and was finally able to eat most of a bagel but didn't want anything else.  It was odd setting up a transition area without seeing our local friends - for sure a downside to races that require travel.

Transition! (No Room)
About 10 minutes before transition closed I had my last spat of indecision and decided to go back to the truck and get my full wet suite.  It got to me that local people were wearing neoprene hats and booties where I was just planning on toughing it out.  The water was still a brisk 61.4.  Transition closed a few minutes after I swapped stuff out and we started our walk over to the swim start.

Racine 70.3 is a point to point swim start.  The swim only has two turns for easy straight swimming but requires a long walk down the beach without shoes to get to the swim start.  Probably my only complaint about the race and in the future will bring throw away shoes to make the trek down to a beach swim.  Amanda had a start time about 45 minutes ahead of mine but still 30ish minutes after the real race start at 7:00.  We spend the time trying to get into our wet suites and hitting up the bathroom.  Key advice for a no wait bathroom at any IronMan event - BRING YOUR OWN TOILET PAPER!  After goofing off pre-race Amanda didn't have much time for a swim warm up.  I swam out a little bit to watch her start and was able to see her easily round the first buoy.

I spent most of the next 45 minutes laying in the water, trying to get a gel out of my tri kit pocket under my wet suit, and trying get prepared for the next several hours.  I was happy for race start to finally get going!  5 minutes till I watched the group before us head out and walked over into the start line holding area.  The wave start was easily the largest wave I have ever started in with about 125-150 in my age group.  The sprint to the first buoy funneled everybody down into a swatting kicking mess.  Combat swimming in action.  The start was rough for a new middle of the pack swimmer but things cleared up after the first turn and first buoy.

For those of you who I have talked to before publishing my race report you already know what happened next.  About .3 miles in all was going well.  I was already passed by one group of swimmers from the wave behind me and it was getting close for the next wave to close in.  I felt one guy start to swim over and bump my left side then the swat of hands on my toes as one of the fast guys mistook me as somebody good to draft behind.  It didn't take long for the guy to figure out I was not his speed and when he did he simply grabbed my ankle- pulled me back- and went right over the top of me.  Crazy experience that I was not prepared for and did not know how to react to.  I took a knee, foot or elbow in my left glute (butt cheek) and instantly felt the muscle group tighten and cramp as a response.  Not happy.

Combination of swim attack and tight wetsuit degraded swim performance but I still ended up with open water distance PR of 44:03.  I was happy to get vertical and start my real race.  Shuffling into T1 it seemed like something was off and my suspicion was confirmed when I set down to have the strippers help get my wet suite off.  My left glute cheek was so tight it felt like I was sitting on a wallet.  The lump was tight and painful - instantly giving me flash backs to my DNF of Goose Pond 70.3 with calf cramps out of the water.  I got over to my transition spot, put on my helmet and bike shoes then sat down and started to stretch the best I could.  T1 took forever at 4:14 but it was the minimum amount of time I needed to get stretched and mentally back in the race.

Transition was set up as the lowest point on the course by the beach with the downside of a steep uphill bike and run start.  I had the foresight to put my bike in its lowest gear pre-race and it paid off shortly after bike mount.  I felt great getting up the hill but quickly started to develop issues with a tight left leg.  The first 3 miles of the bike course were downtown over concrete paved roads that had shifted over the unusually harsh winter.  Transitions from 20' section to section were raised or lowered 1-2" from the winter shift giving a bike ride rougher than anything I have ever experienced in my few years of riding.  The closest I can relate to would be going over ROUGH railroad crossings every 20' for 3 miles.  The jarring of the roads combined with my left leg problem created pain so intense that my eyes were blurry and watering and my heart rate was almost maxed out.  I stopped twice in the first 5 miles to stretch with the hopes of getting some pain relief.

This was the low point of my race.  I could not take much more of the beating and the possibility of another 70.3 DNF was real.  After a slow transition and what would now be a slow bike ride any hope of top places in my age group were gone.  A sub 5 hour race was practically impossible and even finishing before Amanda did not look realistic.  Is the unknown amount of pain and suffering worth it to have a disappointing race finish?  I convinced myself it was.  I stretched it out for the third time and got back on the bike.  My first 5 mile split time was 18:39 (16.1 mph) which was a visible disappointment to me.  If I can't ride fast I am at least going to have fun.

It seemed like my luck started to change after I committed to just going instead of going hard.  The roads transitioned from concrete steps to standard pavement and I found a pace and position that didn't use my sore muscle as much as normal.  I was happy to see my next 5 mile split at 14:58 which was right at 20 mph.  Progress.  My heart rate never came down but also never felt like race pace.  I arrived at the first aid station around half way with a building pace and a 30 mile split of 1:30:17 @ 19.94 mph.  Around mile 35 I caught up with Amanda and got to cheer her on as I sailed by.  I was happy to see her in aero position putting in some work on the course!  As I got warmed up my pace continued to improve with several 5 mile splits over 22 mph which was my goal race pace.  The course was amazingly flat with only a few long rollers.  Heading back into town created the same pain threshold issue with concrete roads and slow pace.  Overall bike time ended up at 2:42:16 @ 20.71 mph.  Taking out all of the stops to stretch my overall bike speed was 21.3 mph.  My mixture of carbo-pro and EFS (600 calories) did the trick for nutrition and I was energized to run.

I got out of my bike shoes about a half mile before transition and cruised down the hill for a dismount.  I almost took out a few other bikers as I did my flying dismount with unconsidered reduced butt mobility.  I slapped my bike back into its transition spot and started a pre-run stretch to hopefully combat further tightening of the muscles.  While sitting on the ground in transition I could feel that the lump in my glute had never stretched out but was at least not as painful.  I got up -  grabbed my water bottle, visor, and sun glasses - and headed out for 13.1.  T2 - 3:44.

Right out of transition - similar to the bike - was the first of two climbs on the run.  I started the run understanding I could not run my sub 7:00 goal pace and settled into low 8:00s for the climb.  I had a gel with some water and took in the beach side run and neighborhood.  Aid stations were about every .75 miles of the two loop out and back course with hundreds of spectators.  The first mile must have been a warm up because I was surprised with a second mile split of 7:12.  I tried to nudge the pace a little lower at 6:50 but could just not get my body relaxed enough to accept the pace.  I decided to run by feel and just enjoy the last part of my first 70.3.  Highlights of the course were the huge amounts of crowd support and getting to see Amanda about half way into my second loop and then again as she went out on her second loop.  She was happy and smiling because she was crushing her past 70.3 time by over 50 minutes!  I ate 3 times (all Gue gel) during the run and easily sailed in at 1:37:50.  Total time of 5:12:08.

Finish Picture!
Beer and Fried Cheese!
I was incredibly happy to finish the 70.3 with the highs and lows of the race.  There was a lot of suffering right after the swim and being able to push through to finish will stand as a reminder in the future not to easily give up.  Some things are just hard.

After my finish I had time to clean up and load my bike and transition gear with minimal waiting to see Amanda finish strong.  She had the best race day ever and it really showed.  Final time of 6:58:18.  We got her stuff loaded up and headed to the hotel for some lounging and race decompression.  We finished the evening with fresh fried cheese curds and excellent local Wisconsin beer!  Epic day.

Post Race - Got up late for check out with one thing on our mind.  O&H Bakery Racine Wisconsin.  We got packed up and drove over to pick up three 'kringles' along with a breakfast of coffee, cherry muffin, and tasty cinnamon thing.  We headed northwest after breakfast to Madison

Wisconsin to meet up with Bill and Becky again in their home town of Madison WI
.  We were able to get a nice lunch and visit for a while before we planned to head further north to Wisconsin Rapids to spend the night at my Grandfather's house.  A benefit of going through Madison was a 'quick' drive over the first half of IronMan Wisconsin course.  Looks like a challenging course with lots of elevation change over the 112 miles.  At least it was pretty.

We made it to my Grandfather's around 8:00 PM to visit with him and my other Aunt Sue, Uncle Mike and cousin Nick.  Joan and Dennis made the drive up from Orfordville earlier in the day as well.  We were lucky enough to time our visit for Nick's 22nd birthday so there was cake and kringles involved.  It was another late night of visiting with good local beer.  Great to catch up with the family.

Madison Trek Store
I got up early the next day to head out for a recovery bike ride.  When unloading my bike I noticed that the beating I took at Racine actually dropped the bike seat post over an inch!  The seat was jammed with the IronMan race number sticker and I suspect that is all that saved the seat from hitting rock bottom.  I made the seat adjustment and took off on a slow scenic ride of Wisconsin Rapids.  Not a bad place to ride with several bike lanes and low 70 temperatures.  I arrived back at my Grandfathers in time to help him and Joan pick raspberries from his garden and kill off a few potato bugs.  My Grandfather is 60 years older than me (91) and has always had a crazy work ethic.  He has had a garden for as long as I can remember and still push mows his own yard.  In college I took a weight training class and when I was visiting I went to do some pull ups in his basement.  He had to show me up (at age 85) that he could easily do a pull up.  Very very impressive guy.
Grandpa's Raspberry Patch

Later in the day all met up for lunch at a local Wisconsin restaurant to have Grandpa treat the family to lunch and then headed back to his house for a little bit more visiting before Joan, Dennis, Amanda, and I had to head back down to Orfordville.  It is customary for my Aunt Sue to photograph any and all family events so without exception we posed in an unlimited combination of family pictures to later get stored and catalogued.  Amanda and I loaded up the bikes and started the drive back south.  We got back to Orfordville around 9:00 PM and were treated to a delicious cheese sandwich and fresh fruit.
Family Group Shot

Got on early start on Wednesday to head back to Alabama.  Never fun to have a vacation end and go back to work but such is life!  Can't wait to do this trip over again in September for IM Wisconsin!


  1. Excellent write up of your weekend in Wisconsin! I thoroughly enjoyed your description of events. Aunt Joan

  2. Great story to read about the journey and not just the race