Race morning came extremely early even though I fell asleep around 830pm the night before. On race mornings for 70.3, I'm up anywhere between 3:30am-4:30am, depending on how far I am away from the race start and what I need to do to set up. Since the race start was a mile from bike transition, I needed to be up at 3:30am. Coffee was made and I began preparing my breakfast.
My breakfast on race day has changed since I first started triathlon. It will continue to change as I do more races and become more efficient in racing and fueling. Breakfast was two pieces of Dave's Killer Bread, almond butter and honey. It is easily digestible for me, I'm not left hungry by race start, and also don't feel nauseated as I normally do when forcing food early in the morning (sidenote: this is most likely from having to shovel food in me prior to very early morning lacrosse practices at La Salle).
Priority #1: Hire The Right People
My other training platforms that I use include MySwimPro and Garmin. I use MySwimPro to track my swim workouts provided to me by PKRS and also use Garmin to track my run workouts, heart rate and everything else related to training. It is also helpful to view metrics.
Shortly after my time at Eagleman 70.3 in Cambridge, MD, I found PKRS.AI training platform. This platform was different than other traditional platforms such as Training Peaks, TrainerRoad, and many many more. The price was also attractive for me as I only needed to pay $30/mo for the basic program or I could spend $90/mo to tailor my program to meet my weekly work and life needs. The $90/mo deal was where I landed. This level also came with a nutritionist, functional concierge, general concierge, coach and AI concierge service. All of these, with exception to the AI concierge service, are real people and have years of experience to deliver results. My favorite part of the app, is the strategic focus on mindfulness and making sure that your mental well-being is a top priority.
Similarly, I believe in the importance of real people. With MySwimPro, I can interact with real people via the founders in an email or with other participants on the facebook support group. With PKRS, I have an actual coach and other people who interact with me. Nothing, however, is more important than real, in-person, interaction. My friend and personal trainer, Sarah Hartman (@Sarah_highpointfitness) has also significantly improved my physical and also mental ceiling.
The most important part of my race day is fueling. It is a difficult concept to master and there is a lot of different methods that people use to help fuel training and races. Back in my second year of triathlon, I met the amazing people of Xrcel. It was at a tent during my check in process at The Escape The Cape triathlon and they had samples of their product. I immediately fell in love.
What is Xrcel? XRCEL® Athlete Fuel is a great tasting drinkable sports supplement that delivers immediate and extended release fuel, via patented micro-gels, to help you stay physically and mentally strong. XRCEL® is also scientifically formulated to work with your body, releasing energy generating glucose as your body needs it. Fueling up with XRCEL® can help you push your body harder for longer, helping you outlast the competition.
Priority #2: Invest In Your Mental Health And Challenge It.
My plan for nutrition for this race included sips of xrcel prior to the swim and during the bike. I always carry Xrcel in my handheld water bottle during the run. I ingested some Xrcel 15 minutes prior to my swim. The water was reported around 62 degrees and so I chose to wear a full wetsuit as opposed to one with no arm coverage. We lined up to take part in the U.S. National Anthem and waited until the tiniest little cannon blast went off.
Then, we racers, ran into the ocean! Sharks? Maybe. Challenging conditions that we were unaware of wait us? Yes. Cold water? Check. Trust in that everything you have done has prepared you for this moment? Absolutely. And no, there is nothing like an open water swim.
The swim course is designed in a rectangle. Some races are triangles, others are obtuse rectangles and some are out and backs. What should have been a simple swim out, over and in process ended up being a battle against everything. This was arguably the most difficult swims that I have ever participated in.
Here is some video of the swim start.
The swells became increasingly intense as racers entered the water. While the swells and waves increased, at one point during the race, when I thought I was swimming straight towards the turn buoys, I was actually way off course swimming diagonal. I immediately had to stop, take a deep breath, refocus and aim for the swim buoys.
I had a difficult time swimming against the current and had many people bump into me during the swim. Things didn't get much better after the first left hand turn. The swells persisted and the current against us became increasingly difficult. At the final left hand turn, I expected to find a push of water for us to come in with. Instead, we were greeted with rip tides preventing a speedy entrance to the swim exit. My swim time ended up being 00:51:19 or 02:42 min/100m. An entire minute per mile slower than I normally swim.
Another image of the swell:
My exact thoughts after that swim:
The next mile was spent traversing over a red carpet laid out on a beach ramp and then road. The red carpet was a blessing as these surfaces were rough and filled with rocks. The period of swim exit to transition was a little less than 1 mile-much longer than other transition lengths that I have had to run on.
Priority #3: Practice Gratitude
Gratitude too over as I shifted my mental focus was now on having a solid bike ride. I was thankful for the ability to be a strong swimmer to have finished. I was thankful that I was able to swim during a sunrise on the coast. I was also thankful that I was able to be apart of this race.
The day prior to the race I drove some of the bike course to familiarize myself with at least the first half of the course, anticipate some of the rolling hills described in the race day manual and also get to know any pot holes in the roads.
The bike course of Ironman Maine.
The bike course was exceptionally hilly. I focused a majority of my bike cadence, heart rate and control on the anticipating hills that were in the middle of the bike course. Race day air temperature was only 59 degrees and was windy. There were many athletes that pulled out of the race, not only during the swim, but also during the bike portion. Again, gratitude took over. During the first half of the race, I hit a new speed record of 37.4 mph!
The second half of the bike course included headwinds with gusts of 20mph and more hills. My total elevation gain was 1,362 feet. So much climbing happened in that race, that inadvertently I earned a climbing badge on my Garmin app. Throughout the bike ride, my bottles are filled with Xrcel with additional carbs and electrolytes. I additionally drink water. My nutrition is always placed on my bike, in my tri top back pockets and in water bottles. Due to the extremely hilly and wind resistant ride, I needed to stop and eat food at a halfway point fuel station.
Priority #4: Refocus Your Goals With The Changing Course.
My goal for the bike portion was to crush 3 hours. However, due to the circumstances, that was impossible, and my finish bike time was 3:29:56. So now, my only focus was to have a great run. Switching gears in transition to running, I was excited to finish out the race with a solid run. My focus included nutrition at each fuel station (that I had in my run pouch) with included extra salt, Xrcel sips and water. I also wore an exceptional pair of running shoes that I found in Hoka. I felt like I could easily attain my next running step as opposed to feeling like I needed to force my leg up to run.
The run course was 2 and a half loops and included shade as well as a trail run. The trail run was one of the best parts of the race as well as the people who were at each aide station readily available to hand out nutrition.
My mental and physical focus was on a solid heart rate goal of a zone 3 run. I also just wanted to have fun while running. There was nothing I could do about the difficulty and results from the swim or the bike portion. My control was now on having a good run, one step and heart rate at a time. Finding my pace, and, finding my race.
Priority #5: You Become What You Think
I remember thinking that people could pass me on the run, and in prior races, I would become so defeated in that moment. I would also, in the past, focus on pace and if I wasn't hitting a specific pace, then I would also become defeated. With the pressing 13.1 mile run after completing a 56 mile bike and 1.2 mile swim, the last thing I wanted in my racing, was feeling defeated. A gentleman had been doing a walk/run style running-he would pass me running, then walk, I would pass him and so on. At one point he passed me and kept on running until eventually I could not see him. I wasn't concerned on him. I was focused on running my pace and running my race. During the last turn, I slightly increased my pace and kept on doing so in a controlled way.
It is VITAL that during the race, if you are going to increase your pace, that you do so in a controlled manner. Your heart rate will increase and so will your inability to control the uncontrollable. Having a clear mental fortitude during this part is the most important aspect. If you are not careful, anxiety could hit as well as uncontrolled breathing. It is also powerful and impactful to practice visualizing your race in your head as well as the last mile.
The day prior, right after placing my bike in transition, I walked the last mile down the road towards the finish. I knew, after the last turn, where that would lead me and how far down the road the finish line was. This was important, because as I was beginning to round the corner, I wanted to increase speed but didn't want to do it too early. I also was thinking I wanted to pass that guy, who was now a mile a head of me. My thoughts became my obsession and my obsession became my focus.
This video is me, passing the guy the earlier on in the race passed me, right before the finish line.
Priority #6: Celebrate the small things. All of them.
I finished the run with a 70.3 best of 2:38:10. Which was 12:25 min/mile. My average moving pace was 12:19 min/mile. To put that into perspective, my lone half marathon best time is a 2:21. I ran so consistently that my heart rate and run cadence are almost a perfect line.
Average heart rate: 166. Max heart rate: 191.
Average run cadence: 173. Max run cadence: 196. Best pace: 6:26 min/mi.
My end time was 7:17:21. In comparison, my last full raced Ironman 70.3 was in Atlantic City in 2016 on a very flat course. That end time was 7:24:14. For me, this was my perfect race even in imperfect circumstances. My mental strength was challenged, I overcame mental barriers and pushed through to celebrate an achievement that I didn't think was possible until I stopped focusing on the overall outcome and focused on what I could do with circumstances that were handed to me. Gratitude handed me difficulties and gratitude handed me victory.