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Ironman 70.3 World Championship - Triathlon

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Chattanooga, Tennessee
United States
80F / 27C
Total Time = 5h 37m 47s
Overall Rank = 486/1706
Age Group = F30-34
Age Group Rank = 110/210
Pre-race routine:

Cliffs notes version of my race report: this was a true championship-quality race that really highlighted some of my weaknesses and has given me a very solid set of things to focus on if I want to be contending for podium spots in (non-championship) races next year. My swimming has continued to get even weaker, my bike climbing tactics and confidence need to be addressed, and my run has improved significantly, but still has room for further improvement. I'm pleased with the execution of my race, but in no way am I satisfied -- I have way more to give by training and racing smarter.

The build to this race was a bit of a cluster! Nine weeks before the race, I had a dog dart out at me (directly from the ditch on my right) while I was riding, so I swerved in an attempt to not run it over (since I knew I would go down if I hit this ~40 pound dog) and I swerved too much and ended up going down. I had some road rash, some bruises, possibly a slightly cracked rib, but most importantly and unfortunately, I had a cracked bike frame. I was down and out for almost a full week and then got back into some easy training.....and riding on my back-up bike (which was a dedicated trainer bike that then became a trainer and outdoor bike once again). So that wasn't ideal....

Two weeks out from the race, Hurricane Harvey decided to wreak havoc on southeast Texas. Thankfully, my house didn't flood, but I didn't have power for nearly two days (i.e. the inside of my house was like a sauna and the one time I tried to ride was a giant disaster!) and was "living on an island"....couldn't get out of my neighborhood, so didn't really have any ability to run or ride.....and certainly didn't want to OWS through the E. coli ridden flood waters!

The Wednesday before the race, my replacement bike frame had come in and my LBS was building up the bike for me. I thought it would be a grand idea to race this bike because I love it so much. There were a couple setbacks, but the mechanic was able to get the bike ready for an idiot, I didn't bring my race wheels in, so he wasn't able to make sure the derailleur was adjusted properly, but he showed me how to do it myself.

On Thursday, my friend and I began the 12+ hour drive from Houston to Chattanooga, with the plan for us to stop somewhere along the way so I could ride for about an hour. We stopped somewhere in Mississippi and I rode along some country roads while she followed me. It was quickly apparent that the rear derailleur was not shifting well and I'd need to make the adjustments that he'd shown me how to do. And then something really weird happened....the aero extensions were loose. I stopped and grabbed my multi tool to try to tighten it up, but was really struggling to get it to work. My friend gave it a shot and we thought it might be okay, so I set out for some more riding. I think I probably made it five minutes before the bolts backed themselves out again and I decided that it wasn't safe or worthwhile to continue riding. As we continued on our journey, I texted Philip to see if he could walk me through how to tighten up the extensions, and it turns out you have to do it from the top (i.e. remove the extensions, which cover a "hidden" bolt). I felt a little better and figured I'd be able to do that and make the adjustments to the derailleur....and do another quick test ride on Friday morning.

As we continued driving, it was apparent that we were going to get to Chattanooga well after dark, so we made a pitstop in Alabama so I could get in a 30 minute run. I'd never been to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or Tennessee before, and now I've ridden in Mississippi and run in Alabama (and by the end of the trip, would have ridden in Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, as well as run in Tennessee!).

Our timing got all screwed up and we didn't end up having dinner that night. Once we got to our AirBnB, I tried to fix my bike, and it turns out that a) I lost one of the bolts in Mississippi, and b) only made the shifting even worse. I had a mini (major?) meltdown that night and Michelle booked me an appointment for the race mechanic.....I had started to do it myself, but couldn't figure out what time my "appointment" was for because that's not an option....apparently you just roll in and they take you first come, first serve -- good thing I got there early and they were taking the women first (since the men were racing Sunday).

After dropping off the bike, I checked in and picked up my race packet, headed out for a 20 minute run, and then we grabbed lunch at a nearby pizza restaurant. I went back to the mechanic tent to see if my bike was done, and thankfully it was. Grabbed it, took it out for a test ride (whew! Everything was working....and it once again seemed like a good idea to ride this brand new bike....even if I only had a grand total of 39 minutes of ride time pre-race!), got all the race stickers plastered on my gear, and then did bike check-in and gear drop-off.

I was on my feet and way more stressed than I typically prefer for the day before the race, but it was what it was, and I was ready to make the best of it. Since lunch was big and a little late, I didn't really have dinner -- just some yogurt with protein powder and a couple squares of dark chocolate. I didn't even have a pre-race drink.....I've been really disciplined with my eating and drinking (even made it down below my originally-planned race weight), and just didn't want to chance something not sitting well. I got into bed early and read for a bit (old race reports and the start of a new book). I didn't sleep well, but that's kind of to be expected.

Event warmup:

Race morning was pretty uneventful. I think I got all the shit out of the way with my last couple stressful days, and was actually feeling pretty calm. I had some steel cut oats with protein powder and almonds for breakfast; I brought a banana with me to eat before the race, but I wasn't feeling it.

The pros went off at 7:30 and my wave didn't go until 8:11. I sat around and chatted with some people before struggling my way into my wetsuit (oh yeah, it never even struck me that this race might be wetsuit legal, but when the water temperatures were hovering around 76F in the few days before, I packed my wetsuit.....which hadn't been in the water since April!). There was no in-water warmup for the age group racers, so I just stretched my arms out and made sure that the wetsuit was adjusted as well as I could get.

They decided to do a "time trial" start within age group waves. Since my swimming has been sucking a lot lately, I lined myself up at the back of the 37' / front of the 38' group (assuming my actual swim time would be several minutes slower than that due to the up-current nature of the swim). Also, I figured if I started toward the back of my AG, then anyone I passed on the bike or run, I'd know I was in front of because I didn't start in front of many!

  • 42m 27s
  • 1900 meters
  • 02m 14s / 100 meters

My swimming was pretty strong in 2013/2014, started to fall off in 2015, and completely tanked in 2016....I took a bit of time off to mentally re-charge and then hit the pool and made some decent gains in early 2017. Unfortunately, the progress I've made in the pool simply hasn't been translating to OWS / triathlon racing. So, if I'm completely honest with myself, I went into this swim already defeated. I lined up basically at the back of the AG and literally never pushed to anything beyond "very comfortable".

Approximately 10 racers were allowed to start every five seconds. Once out of the gate, we dived in off the pontoon (I managed a decent dive and didn't lose my goggles or anything even!) and set out. The first part of the swim had three buoys and was going across the current....if you weren't paying attention, you'd start to be pushed down-river, away from the buoys. I realized this pretty quickly and corrected my course.

Once we turned into the current, it kind of felt like an endless pool, but with the added "fun" of having the sun come up directly in front of us! I'm pretty sure I didn't actually sight any buoys until I came up quite close to them, but was rather sighting the big yellow orb in the sky, as well as the "legs" of the bridges we'd swim under. It felt like a really long time (it was....), but I kept reminding myself that this is "just the warm up for the bike" -- like I said, I went in pretty defeated, and really just swam comfortably.

Once we made it to the far end of the course, we turned to swim back toward shore and everything started to speed back up. My Garmin beeped at me a couple more times, signifying the 500 yards had gone by, and they came much faster than on the up-current portion! I came up to the swim exit and the volunteers guided us up the steps and over to the wetsuit strippers.....who were RIGHT THERE! I didn't even have time to unzip my wetsuit before they were swarming all over me!

What would you do differently?:

Oh god, my swim is so bad. This highlighted just how bad it really is (the time is probably four minutes slower than it would have been in a non-current swim, but that time is also really bad in comparison to what I used to be able to do).

Really validating just how bad my swim has gotten, I've now committed to a swim focus during the off season. I'll be following a Tower 26 training plan and will likely be ditching my masters group. Reviewing my Garmin file shows that the poor performance is unrelated to my ability to swim a straight it's all swimming and not tactics.

Transition 1
  • 04m 27s

Right as I got out of the water, the strippers were there, ready to help me get my wetsuit off. I haven't been in the wetsuit since April and have gotten a new Garmin 735 since then, versus my old 910. I thought / hoped that the wetsuit would come off nicely over the 735, but it didn't. In the future, I'll remove the watch before trying to pull it off my wrist, as it was stuck for what felt like an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds. They were able to get it ripped off me pretty quickly after that.

They handed my wetsuit back to me and I ran through the bag drop area of transition and retrieved my bike bag. After that, you run up this relatively steep ramp that has carpet and some slippery areas, but it was mostly uneventful. I got up to the top where they had chairs for you to change. I put on my helmet, slipped my feet into socks and bike shoes (because I still haven't bothered to learn to do a flying mount...), put my sunglasses on, shoved my swim gear into the bag, handed it to the volunteers and thanked them for being out there, and ran to my bike. It was kind of a long run in bike shoes, but it's what I'd practiced, so I didn't want to change anything.

Bonus for being a shitty swimmer: my bike was easy to find!

What would you do differently?:

Remove the Garmin before trying to pull the wetsuit over my wrists, commit to learning to mount the bike with my shoes already clipped in (even if it's not a flying mount)

  • 2h 59m 29s
  • 90 kms
  • 30.09 km/hr

With all the crazy-ness going on leading up to the race, I didn't get to ride or drive the bike course. I did watch a video that showed the whole course and had looked at the elevation profile, so I had an idea of what was coming. Living in Houston, there are relatively few opportunities to train on hills.....and all of the hills within a reasonable driving distance of me are rolling hills, versus climbing hills. So the plan for the race was to target power in the 155-160W range. Marc told me I "could" go up to 175W for the legs (maybe my brain, subconsciously) told me otherwise!

The first few miles of the course are flat and fast. My legs felt great and I was blowing by hordes of people. The climb snuck up on come up on an intersection and the road jogs to the left, and then you're on the start of the climb....still in your big chain ring! I shifted into my small chain ring and settled in. People started passing me, but I wasn't worried....they were going to blow up their legs and I'd pass them back on the downhill and flat sections, right? Right??

We climbed for a bit and a bunch of women continued to pass me, but we did eventually get to a little flat / rolling section, and as I expected, I passed a bunch of them back. Then we got into another long, sustained climb, and all of those women I just passed then passed me back. Oh well, I'll pass them later, right? Right?? As we neared the top of the climb, the crowd was amazing! There were so many people out....I mean, not quite like Tour de France or Challenge Roth, but still a ton of people out providing tons of support! It was so much fun....and to be honest, I was glad to be done with the major climb.

Just as we hit the climb, my NP was at the end of the climb, my NP had dropped to 155W. I'm probably the only person who manages to have her power drop on climbs. I'm simply not very good at them....well, let me rephrase that: I think that it has more to do with the fact that I don't get the opportunity to train on them, so I'm not very confident (oddly enough, I'm quite confident on fear and it's simply fun for me!). Marc told me I "could" go up to 175W on the climb, with his reasoning being that the climb was early on in the race and that he thought I'd be able to recover and still run well later (though I didn't have this bit of information until after the race). My legs and brain told me I "should" stay in the 150's for the climb, so I did.

Once we got out of the climbing portion of the ride, I was feeling really good and buckled down a bit. By the end of the ride, my NP had climbed back up to 157W. But as for passing all the people who passed me -- turns out I was wrong....very wrong! In hindsight, I'm actually really disappointed in this bike split. Women I normally ride comparably with were riding about 10 minutes faster than me on this course. Best Bike Split had predicted a 2:47 bike split @ 157W, and I was 10 minutes slower than that (going back and reviewing it, I see that it also had me up around 175W for the climb....). In the end, my NP/AP was 157/153, so pretty steady, but certainly not optimized.

I'm disappointed that I wasn't confident enough to push the climb up to 175W and minimize the sheer number of people who passed me....and then apparently still ran strong (given that I didn't make up any places on the run). I executed my plan pretty well, but the problem was that it was a bad plan. I know this now and know that in order for me to feel confident about climbing and increasing my power output for a period of time that I'll need to train that. So next year, I plan to take a number of long weekends away from Houston and go climb some freaking hills!

My nutrition and hydration were pretty good. I ate 2.5 Honey Stinger Waffles, drank two bottles of Skratch, and managed to successfully grab water at each of the four aid stations -- drank as much as I wanted within the "trash zone" and tossed the bottle at the end.

What would you do differently?:

Train on hills (actual hills), or at the very least, simulate them on the trainer (cadence in the 50's, power more in sweet spot than tempo)

Transition 2
  • 01m 47s

Coming into T2, I slipped my feet out of my shoes and did a flying dismount, being extra careful running with my bike that the pedal and shoe didn't come down on my foot like it did at Galveston. They had bike catchers (benefit of a championship race, since they don't normally do that at 70.3 distance races), so I handed my bike away and ran over to the bag drop area to pick up my run gear.

I collected my bag and ran to one of the chairs. I pulled off my bike socks and changed into dry socks for the run, shoved my feet into my shoes, and grabbed my hat / race belt / nutrition and got them situated on my way out of transition. This was a pretty clean transition, but I did waste a few seconds changing socks.

  • 1h 49m 37s
  • 21 kms
  • 05m 13s  min/km

As I ran out of transition, I could feel that my running legs were there. The plan was to run the first mile by feel, settle into a solid tempo pace for the next eight miles, expect to feel bad and want it to be over with around 9-10 miles, but know I could hang on for the last 5k.

The first mile ticked off at a sub-8 pace, which I knew was faster than I was realistically expecting to go, but it felt good. There was a bit more downhill than uphill on this mile, so I didn't worry about it and continued to run by feel mostly, but checking to make sure my HR was where I wanted it to be. The next three miles also clicked off at sub-8 paces and I started to wonder if maybe I could hang on.....but then the miles settled more into what I'd expected, which was somewhere in the 8:15-8:25 range, depending on how much was uphill versus downhill. Other than the bridges, there wasn't too much that was dead flat!

Over the past several races, I've found that I struggle to choke down Gu, so I decided to switch it up this time around and went with Skratch Fruit Drops. Since each packet has 160 calories and I normally take 300 calories, I decided to dump three packets into a snack-sized Ziploc bag. The plan was great (and I didn't mind eating the fruit drops at all), but the execution could use some work. Thankfully I put three bags of fruit drops into the Ziploc because I probably dropped as many as I ended up eating!

I did my normal run-through of the aid stations, grabbing at least one cup of water at each, and occasionally grabbing sponges and/or ice. For the most part, I was able to keep my body temperature manageable.....I've been training in the miserable heat and humidity of Houston, so this dry heat meant that sweating actually serves a purpose! There was a really nice shaded stretch along the river that felt absolutely amazing! And even the sunny sections weren't too bad.

By the time I was getting to about the half way point, I was mentally counting down how much time I had left (e.g. "less than an hour to go"....or "less than 36 minutes to go.....maybe closer to 32 minutes if you can get back to those 8 minute paces.....oh shit, that was a little slow, so it might be closer to 36 minutes, but that's okay -- you've got this!"). Since it was a two loop course, I'd seen the 12 mile marker on my first loop and had an idea of where it was....but, of course, as I was somewhere between 11 and 12, I couldn't remember exactly where it was and kept expecting it to show up. It was about that point that my stomach started "talking" to me. We had a quick little chat and I told it that we weren't stopping and if we really had to go, it had better be done without breaking stride.....and then I started hoping that the back of my tri suit was black and not the grey or celeste green :P Really though, I didn't think I was in any danger of actually crapping myself, but I didn't want to stop.

Finally found that 12 mile marker and looked at my cumulative pace....I saw it was 8:19 or 8:20 and wanted to work hard to make sure it didn't drop off, so I buckled down and really put it out there. When you round the corner where it splits for the second lap or to go to the finish, I was happy to be able to stay left.....until I realized we'd be running down a massive hill. It wasn't my quads screaming at me, but rather my two big toes that were being jammed into the fronts of my shoes (for about the billionth time during this race!). I told myself that the faster I went, the faster I'd be done, so might as well put on my best grimace and go for it.

As I was running down the finish chute and there were a ton of people out cheering, I was so happy. I'd executed a pretty good run, I was pleased with most of my race, and I was really happy to simply be done!

What would you do differently?:

I'm happy with the execution of this race, but know I have more in me. That doesn't detract from what I did today, but I'm not satisfied that I've peaked yet. The improvements will be slower in the future, but I've improved by a solid 10-15 minutes over the last couple years. This was the hardest run course (not the hardest conditions, but the hardest course) and the only race I have a faster run split from was actually short by 0.2 miles (according to my Garmin), so I consider this to be my best executed run and basically my PR.

Post race
Warm down:

After crossing the finish line, a nice volunteer caught me and helped me get water, finisher gear, and get my timing chip removed. After working my way out of the finisher's chute, I retrieved my morning clothes bag, used the bathroom, and then my ass found the ground and it took a while for me to get back up :)

Once I decided to get up, I took some pictures and posted them on facebook, got my finisher picture taken by the photographer, texted my friends who were among the crowd at the finisher's chute, and then got some food. We sat at the team tent and watched a guy swim in the endless pool that was the Tennessee River with the flow fully turned back up :P

Eventually, I got the rest of my race gear and we headed back to Michelle's car. That night, I met up with Doro for dinner and drinks.....was great to catch back up in person since we haven't seen each other since Pucon!

The next day, we got to fan-girl over the men's pro race and support the AG guys as well. I loved having the races separated for this! I didn't see ANY pelotons on the bike course (and was appalled at the number when I did Mont Tremblant three years ago), and it was really cool to see how many people were out supporting the women, without it feeling like they were out supporting the men and we were an afterthought. I know it's not realistic to do this for every race, but I hope they do separate races for the WC events!

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Poor swimming -- addressing that by doing a swim focus, with an actual structured plan (planning to swim 6-7 days a week for the next several months, and then down to four once I balance things back out, but with a structured plan that is built around race season.....thanks, Tower 26!)

Lack of confidence / training on bike climbing skills -- have a plan to address this starting a few months before St. George 70.3 next year

Still working on improving my run....will probably be a life-long effort!

Event comments:

This was an awesome race! This was a true championship course that exposed athletes' strengths and weaknesses. I loved that they separated the men's and women's races and hope they will continue to do so for WC events. I hope to qualify for Nice in 2019, but know I have a lot of work to do before then.

Last updated: 2017-09-17 12:00 AM
00:42:27 | 1900 meters | 02m 14s / 100meters
Age Group: 178/210
Overall: 1057/1706
Performance: Bad
Suit: Tyr Cat 5
Course: Up current swim in the Tennessee River
Start type: Dive Plus: Time Trial
Water temp: 76F / 24C Current: Medium
200M Perf. Below average Remainder: Below average
Breathing: Average Drafting: Bad
Waves: Below average Navigation: Average
Rounding: Average
Time: 04:27
Performance: Below average
Cap removal: Below average Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Yes Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed: Average
02:59:29 | 90 kms | 30.09 km/hr
Age Group: 95/210
Overall: 563/1706
Performance: Below average
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Average Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Good Hills: Below average
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Time: 01:47
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes Good
Jumping off bike Good
Running with bike Good
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal Below average
01:49:37 | 21 kms | 05m 13s  min/km
Age Group: 95/210
Overall: 483/1706
Performance: Good
Course: Two loop run course
Keeping cool Average Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Below average
Mental exertion [1-5] 3
Physical exertion [1-5] 3
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Too hard
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2017-09-20 4:33 PM

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Houston, Texas
Subject: Ironman 70.3 World Championship

2017-09-20 5:02 PM
in reply to: #5228333

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PEI, Canada
Subject: RE: Ironman 70.3 World Championship

Great race and report!  I suck at climbing hills too

2017-09-21 11:59 PM
in reply to: #5228333

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Eugene, Oregon
Bronze member
Subject: RE: Ironman 70.3 World Championship
Actually I think you time was quite good for the difficulty of this course! Mine was 53 minutes off my best! Granted, I was racing both sick and injured, but still--swim course was VERY slow, and bike course very hard. I'm not sure how I managed to be so much slower on the bike when my NP was close to yours (156 for me) and we are close in size, but my average power was much lower (142)--maybe I worked the hills more and not so much the other parts. I am also not a very brave descender so may have been coasting when I could have been pedaling. Also had some issues in the last 30K as they had re-opend traffic on some parts when the latter half of my AG came through.

Anyway, you had an awesome effort. Too bad we couldn't meet--then again, you wouldn't have wanted my germs!
2017-09-22 11:28 AM
in reply to: Hot Runner

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Houston, Texas
Subject: RE: Ironman 70.3 World Championship

I didn't know they ever closed the course to traffic.  We dealt with it quite a bit.  Definitely had quite a few times (on the descent portion) where I had to sit up and slow my forward momentum until it was safe to pass.  I'm still not entirely sure what the correct protocol is for this....but I passed the cars on the right (on the shoulder), while making sure that I was passing cyclists on the left (as per the rules).  I'm sure it didn't make a difference in my overall time by more than 30-60 seconds.

Would love to meet you at a future race, but you're right -- definitely didn't want the germs!  Though my friend got really sick and I somehow managed to get by unscathed

2017-09-22 11:38 AM
in reply to: ligersandtions

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Baltimore, Maryland
Subject: RE: Ironman 70.3 World Championship
Great report, Nicole! Sounds like a really great race and I love that you are looking at it and finding what to work on for next year.
2017-09-25 1:39 PM
in reply to: #5228333


Subject: RE: Ironman 70.3 World Championship
Great race! You're my hero, or heroine!!

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