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Ironman 70.3 Syracuse - Triathlon1/2 Ironman

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Syracuse, New York
United States
Premier Event Management
58F / 14C
Total Time = 7h 01m 2s
Overall Rank = 1437/2100
Age Group = Men 40-44
Age Group Rank = 181/276
Pre-race routine:

I grew up just outside of Syracuse in the town of Liverpool. I came down to the Philadelphia area to attend Temple and have been here ever since (25+ years). When I saw the Syracuse IM 70.3 announcement in late September of last year, I'll bet I was one of the first athletes to sign up. This would be my A-race for the year

However, there were several circumstances leading up to the race that had me starting to think that it wasn't meant to be. The plan was for my wife and I to make the 5 hour drive to Syracuse on Saturday and leave after the race on Sunday. My mother was going to watch the kids while we were gone, but she got ill 2 days prior to the race (turns out to be appendicitis).

She tried numerous different avenues, but we could not find anyone to watch the kids overnight. One of the challenges in finding babysitters (especially overnight babysitters) is that our oldest daughter, Rachel, has Cerebral Palsy and is not mobile or verbal. So we can't just call the neighborhood high school senior to come watch the kids; we need a respite worker. No such luck.

After much back and forth that is too complicated and boring to detail here, I asked my brother to make the trip to Syracuse with me. He agreed and my wife felt much more comfortable knowing he'd be there. On the Thursday before the race, I was convinced that the entry fee was just going to be lost and I wasn't going to the race. I was even looking at other races in my area that I could sign up for in place of this.

So we drove up Saturday morning and got to the hotel where the IM Expo and athlete check-in were being held (the same hotel I was staying at). I checked in, walked around the expo and then my bro and I were off to see some of our old stomping grounds. We went to ouWe had an awesome time seeing our old house, old schools, and reminiscing about our high school years. We had a blast for a few hours, but then it was time to start getting down to business.

We drove to Jamesville Reservoir and checked in my bike and then I went for a practice swim. HOLY SHEEEE-IT, that water's cold! The water temp was 62 degrees. I swam out to the first bouy (about 1/10th of the course) and was just not feeling like going further. I have a phobia about open water swimming, but I do it because I like conquering my demons. I thought, OK... good enough. I got a feel for the water and I can just put off the agony of a long swim in this ice bath until tomorrow.

We went to dinner and then he dropped me off at the hotel. There were shuttles from the hotel to the race site, so he didn't need to stay with me or drive me to the race. He stayed with a friend of ours that we went to high school with.
Event warmup:

The transition area closed at 6:45, but my wave wasn't going to go off until 8:18, so I didn't feel the need to get up at the butt-crack of dawn. I had a wake-up call and my alarm set for 5am, which meant nothing, because I woke up at 2:15am and couldn't get back to sleep. I started stressing about the swim and wondering how I was going to do in that frigid water. After about 3 hours of watching infomercials and playing solitaire on my Droid, I got up and got a shower.

Had a bowl of cereal that was in the athlete packet and a banana. Got on the bus and headed for the race. There was a huge line of cars at the entrance of the race and it took about 1/2 hour to make the last 1/4 mile. I got to the transition area just in time to hear the announcer say that it would be closing in 10 minutes. Got set up, ate some Shot Blocks, put on my wetsuit and headed out to the swim.

I was in the 18th wave out of 20, so I had lots of time to kill. I got in the water and got acclimated. I personally thought the water was bone chilling and had a hard time catching my breath whenever I would put my face in it. But wave after wave went off and the announcer would call out to racers that were going off without wetsuits. There was probably a dozen or so of them. Perhaps I'm just a colossal WIMP.
  • 47m 28s
  • 2112 yards
  • 02m 15s / 100 yards

OK... nervous open water swimmer... got it? I seeded myself to the far back right (inside). I figured the outside would get me touching a lot of the weeds that were in the shallower ends of the lake. Sorry, but that's just yucky.

I struggled at first because putting my face in the water was taking my breath away, so I was trying this weird stroke with my head out of the water. After a minute or two of that, I figure I wouldn't finish this swim if I didn't get a good rhythm going. So after a 10 second break, I put my head in the water and started with long, smooth strokes. Within a minute I was in a great rhythm, breathing every other stroke and sighting every 4th. Before I knew it, I was at the 4th bouy which is the first turn. I rounded the bouy perfectly and continued with a nice rhythm. Confidence building with every stroke.

About halfway to the next turn, I started feeling myself getting a little winded, so I slowed my pace and got my HR back down. Rounded the next bouy and I was heading home. By now, I was feeling really good and made it about half way back when I felt the twinge of a cramp in my left calf. Not bad, but definitely an attention getter. I did a 1-legged kick for a while and then was able to get back to a regular kick. Then my other calf cramped... WTF? I've hydrated like crazy, ate 2 bananas, and even took 2 salt tabs before the swim.

I worked out that cramp and then got back to a nice stroke. I was getting close to the swim exit when all of the sudden both legs completely locked up... calves, hammy's, thighs. I've never experienced anything like it. It hurt like crazy and I let out a yell. I checked to see if I was in shallow enough water to put my feet down, but I wasn't. I tried to straighten my legs, but they weren't having any part of it. So I did a kind of breastroke the last 20 yards until I was able to force my legs straight and put them on the ground. As soon as I was able to start walking out of the water, the pain went away and the camps subsided.

I got my wetsuit stripped, which was a relief since pulling it off myself would have locked me up again. The cramps had me concerned about the bike ride because I knew the hills came early and they were tough.
What would you do differently?:

Not be such a FREAK before an open water swim. Realize that I've trained for this and I'm not going to die. Chill out.

With regard to the cramps... I have no explanation whatsoever. Eat a 10 lb. bar of salt? Drink 2 jars of pickle juice? Eat 50 bananas?
Transition 1
  • 09m 49s

Took some time to massage my calves and thighs. Drank an entire bottle of Gatorade, took 2 salt tabs and ate a gel. It felt like the tempertature was dropping and it was starting to drizzle/mist, so I put on arm warmers. They were actually my 13 year old daughter's black wool tights that I cut the feet off of. What a concept! I was glad I wore them because the bike ride would have been freezing without them.
What would you do differently?:

Nothing really. I knew this was going to be a long one after coming out of the water.
  • 3h 30m 13s
  • 56 miles
  • 15.98 mile/hr

WOW. Tough course. The first 12 miles were pretty much all uphill. On the first big uphill push, I realized that the gear ratio on my new bike (just started riding it a few weeks ago) was different than the old bike. I knew that before hand, but it became more of an issue than I thought it would. I heard people talking afteward that were glad they had a 3rd crank so they could spin up the hills. I was out of the saddle and hammering it and that got painful by days end.

On the first hill I heard some rubbing on my tire that seemed to get worse as I went up the hill. When I got to a flat spot, I had to stop to see what was rubbing. Tried adjusting the brakes, seeing if the wheel alignment was off... nothing. This ended up being an issue throughout the day. I had to stop 3 times because the rubbing seemed to be getting worse. In the end, I couldn't fix it, so I said F-it and decided to ignore it.

The first 12 miles were pretty awful. I came into this race with the intent of "Taking it easy. Taking what the day gives me. Enjoying myself". But that all goes out the window when you get into a race. Ultimately, you're not out for a liesurly Sunday ride, you're racing. One of the hills, I'm told, had a 20 degree incline. That's probably the one that I walked my bike up (About a 1/4 mile I'm guessing). But it felt good to stretch out the calves.

Miles 15 - 30 were much kinder with some nice rollers. However, I felt like I was already cooked. My legs were cramping and I had developed a side stitch that was killing me. I know my hydration was dead on because I had to stop twice on the bike to pee. I was drinking 80% Gatorade and 20% water, probably took 5 salt tabs and 6 or 7 Hammer Gels on the bike, so I'm still not sure what was causing the cramping. It was starting to get very frustrating and mile 30 was where I started to have thoughts of packing it in after the bike.

It's amazing how this becomes a mental game after a while. I started thinking about every missed workout and how I could rationalize quitting without regretting it. I was thinking about how I could make a joke on Facebook that I finished 2/3 of a 1/2 Ironman and that meant I was 5/12 of an ironman (or something like that). I thought about how some of the friends in my mentor group have said "take what the day gives you" and I was going to say that it gave me an Aqua-Velo. I was really stuggling with cramping and that little internal conversation continued until about mile 50. I think that's where all the salt tabs and hammer gels kicked in.

It was almost like a switch went off and most of the cramping almost completely went away and I felt a lift in my energy. Over the next 5 or so miles that little voice inside me said that I'm going to finish this freaking race. I started saying to myself that I didn't care if I had to walk for 13 miles, I was going to finish.
What would you do differently?:

Train more. Be more confident. Lose the self-doubt. Take 50 freaking salt tabs and 50 hammer gels before each leg of the race???
Transition 2
  • 08m 18s

I knew this was going to be a long transition... I found that I was the only one taking time to send a text message! I sent a text to my wife at home that said, "done w/bike that sukd! out 2 run now" Then I sent a text to my brother, who was waiting at the finish line... "C U in 2.5 hrs".

Then I put on my running shoes and I was starting to feel pretty stoked about this run. It was going to feel sooooo good to stretch out those legs. And away we went!
What would you do differently?:

Learn to text faster. Maybe my daughter can teach me that.
  • 2h 25m 14s
  • 13.1 miles
  • 11m 05s  min/mile

As soon as I started jogging, I felt better, stronger and the cramps in my legs all but disappeared. Within the first mile, I now knew I was going to finish the race and was so psyched that I decided to stick it out. I ran the first 4+ miles, only walking the aid stations. The volunteers were absolutely fantastic... the best I've ever seen.

I continued to drink Gatorade and water at each aid station and had a couple gels throughout the run. They had a variety of gel flavors, but I kept grabbing my least favorite and was well past the stop before I realized I had the double latte coffee flavored gel. YUCK!

After mile 4, I stared running about half a mile, walking a hundred yards or so, then running then rest of the mile to the aid station. I had to stop and take 2 pee breaks. I chatted with several runners and I enjoyed making some new friends on the course.

Midway through the run, I was feeling great from a conditioning standpoint. I was keeping my HR around 145-150, which is what I planned for before the race. The only thing that was starting to bother me was my feet. They were starting to hurt pretty bad... not cramping, just sore from all the pounding. But continued with my run/walk combo. The miles seemed to be clicking off pretty quickly. I had hoped for a 2:30 half marathon leading up to the race (my 1/2 mary PR is 2:06, and I was expecting a tough bike course, so I thought 2:30 was doable). Before I knew it, I was at the 12 mile mark and I started feeling that elation that you feel when you know you're almost there.

I was by myself on the course for the last couple miles, but that was OK. I got to the final straightaway before the turn into the waterfront. People were cheering and it was quite a rush. As I entered the final couple-hundred yards and was heading toward the finish line, I saw my brother and two of our friends from high school. He was taking pictures and cheering and I heard my name announced... A truly unbelievable feeling... almost like finishing a HIM for the first time.

As soon as I stopped running, got my medal and met up with my brother, I felt the brunt of the soreness in my legs. As I (finally) finish up this race report 6 days after the race, my feet are still killing me. But it's one of those hurts that comes with a great feeling of accomplishment. I had all but given up on this race. In my mind, I had already written the race report of my 2/3 of a HIM. I'm not sure what changed my mind and got me to head out on that run, but I'm so glad I did. One of my friends told me that "quitting lasts a lifetime".
What would you do differently?:

Nothing. Well, maybe more training. It would have been nice to run the entire half marathon, but that's just not were my training was. Overall, I think I nailed it to the best of my ability and conditioning.
Post race
Warm down:

Walked around the riverfront a little. Got something to eat at the food tent. Wanted to get out of there just because we had a 5-hour drive home and I was hurting. This was my second half ironman, but I felt so much satisfaction that I could cross an "official" 70.3 race off the bucket list.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Training... slacked off a bit in the last month.

Event comments:

Overall, this was a great race and my first time experiencing an M-dot race. I think it was well organized and I think the volunteers are what made the race great. I didn't care for the point to point run and then having to drive back to get my bike and gear. Logisically it was a bit of a pain to do that. The bike course is very challenging, but with more training, I could have "survived" it a little better. The race got started 15 minutes late due to traffic congestion getting into the race. There are only 2 narrow roads on which to get to the race start. But the swim waves were compressed and the race organizers made up that 15 minutes by the time the last wave went off. I would recommend this race.

Last updated: 2009-10-05 12:00 AM
00:47:28 | 2112 yards | 02m 15s / 100yards
Age Group: 181/276
Overall: 1437/2100
Performance: Below average
Suit: Fit2Race Sleeveless
Course: Triangular shaped course. Out .5 mi, over .2 mi, back .5 mi.
Start type: Wade Plus:
Water temp: 61F / 16C Current: Low
200M Perf. Bad Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Average
Waves: Below average Navigation: Good
Rounding: Good
Time: 09:49
Performance: Below average
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed:
03:30:13 | 56 miles | 15.98 mile/hr
Age Group: 179/276
Overall: 1400/2100
Performance: Below average
Wind: Some
Course: Single loop course. First 12 miles are pretty much all uphill (big time).
Road: Smooth Wet Cadence:
Turns: Good Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Hills: Below average
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Time: 08:18
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes Bad
Jumping off bike Bad
Running with bike Average
Racking bike Average
Shoe and helmet removal Bad
02:25:14 | 13.1 miles | 11m 05s  min/mile
Age Group: 181/276
Overall: 1437/2100
Performance: Good
Course: Point to point... mostly flat.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2010-09-25 9:57 AM

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West Grove, PA
Subject: Ironman 70.3 Syracuse

2010-09-25 10:13 AM
in reply to: #3117255

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East Side of the Bay
Subject: RE: Ironman 70.3 Syracuse
That was a really tough race! Congrats on overcoming Sherpa logistics, OWS psych-out, cold, drizzle, cramps, hills, fatigue and pain! Nice you want to do it again!!
2010-09-26 10:13 AM
in reply to: #3117255

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Midcoast Maine
Subject: RE: Ironman 70.3 Syracuse
Fantastic job...way to push through and finish, even when it can be so easy to stop. That truly shows what you are made of. I much prefer reading the tale of a completed HIM rather than a 5 1/12 Ironman. Your kids will remember this. And you will proud of you.
2010-09-27 2:52 PM
in reply to: #3117255

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Extreme Veteran
Pauls Valley, OK
Subject: RE: Ironman 70.3 Syracuse
Great job Bill.  Way to overcome the urge to quit.  That's some serious mental fortitude.  I had to say to myself "Take what the day gives you" countless times.  I can't believe how much it helps.  It looks like you overcame quite a bit to even start this race.  Again, congratulations on your 70.3.  A huge accomplishment.
2010-09-28 11:52 AM
in reply to: #3117255

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Subject: RE: Ironman 70.3 Syracuse
Great job Bill!!

"I was thinking about how I could make a joke on Facebook that I finished 2/3 of a 1/2 Ironman and that meant I was 5/12 of an ironman (or something like that)."  <----- You are hilarious!!

You had what it takes to mentally keep yourself in the game!

Awesome job!!....well except that texting in transition!!!  LOL

I am so happy for you!  Congratulations!!
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