Sep 15, 2014

I completed an Ironman 70.3 yesterday.  What an experience!  I got so much positive feedback from it that I thought I’d write a little bit about it for anyone who is truly interested.
This story starts a few years ago, actually, when I decided to do my first triathlon.  To make a long story short, in that first triathlon I almost died during the swim, kicked ass on the bike, and then took two wrong turns in the run and was disqualified.
That was an Olympic distance triathlon: 1 mile ocean swim followed by a 25 mile bike ride followed by a 6 mile run.  The Ironman 70.3 I did yesterday was more than double that.
Also, until yesterday, I had never:
  • swam more than 1 mile
  • biked more than 42 miles
  • ran more than 12 miles (without stopping)
So yesterday, I swam 1.2 miles in the ocean, biked 56 miles, and ran a half marathon (13 miles).  Personal records as far as distance in all three disciplines.
I had a tentative goal going in to the race.  I wanted to finish around 5 hours.  It was a very lofty goal, but my training was going well and I felt really strong on the bike (where I did the majority of my training).  I was telling people, “the swim is a wild card, but I am going to crush it on the bike.”  And I really believed that!  I have become a strong cyclist in the last few months.
But I wasn’t ready for what was in store yesterday on the bike portion.
The swim was definitely a wild card.  I had become much more comfortable in the water, but that was in the pool, and like I mentioned earlier, in my first ever triathlon, I almost died in the water.  But overall, I felt confident with my swimming.
I’ve always been a pretty strong runner, but this was also a little bit unpredictable.  Running after a long bike ride is very difficult and uncomfortable.  In the back of my mind, I thought I’d start slow, hit my stride, and end up running 8 minute miles AT THE WORST.
To wrap up my fantasy world, I was thinking I could do the following:
40 minute swim
5 minute transition
2 hours and 30 minutes bike
5 minutes transition
1 hour 40 minute run



I was off at 7:05am.  I let everyone in my group go ahead of me because I don’t want to get in anyone’s way.  I jump in the water which is a very comfortable 65 degrees and start swimming.  It’s actually coming very naturally and I’m feeling great!  The course is a clockwise half loop around a large pier which is on our right.  The only problem for me is that I can only breathe on my left side, so I can’t use the pier as a guide for where I should be swimming.  I run into the same guy at least 5 times so I decide to swim for twenty breaths and then pop my head up to sight where I am going.  Every time I do this, I am off course.   We come around the pier, we’re halfway done, and I’m feeling even better.  Unfortunately, I veer so far off course that I’m sure I swam closer to 1.5 miles than 1.2 miles.  It was during this second half of the swim that I realized 5 hours was unattainable.  But I’m feeling good and looking forward to getting on the bike and really making up some time.


I feel like I could’ve swam 2 or even 3 miles.  I’ve made huge improvements in my swimming.


My goal of 5 hours was no longer a reality as I knew coming out of the water that I was way behind schedule. My swim time ended up being 41 minutes and 32 seconds.


It was probably a good half mile from the ocean to the transition area.  We had to run in our bare feet, through the sand, up onto the sidewalks of Santa Cruz, even crossing train tracks, and through a few streets to the parking lot where transition was.  I found my stuff easily, but my transition was slow once inside the lot, too: I couldn’t find the pockets on my jersey to store two gels so I ended up stuffing one up my shorts.  My time in transition ended up being 8 minutes and 21 seconds.


This was going to be my strong point!  I had visions of putting in one of the best times out of anyone!     Reality hit me hard here.   I started out strong.  The course was supposed to be primarily flat, with possibility of a strong headwind heading north.  We started out going north along the Pacific Ocean.  Headwind was there but not too bad.  I was feeling good, riding at a good pace – I was really comfortable.   Then a 53 year old woman passed me.   Then an overweight 46 year old ZOOMED past me.   And competitor after competitor continued to pass me, and that was when I really started to think about things.  First, I was so humbled.  I was not nearly as good as I thought I was.  Secondly, I was a little bit defeated, as I saw my 5 hour goal really fly out the window.  But I specifically remember feeling humbled as competitor after competitor passed me on the bike portion.   Then I started getting mad.   What was supposed to be a flat course ended up being pretty hilly, in my opinion.  Worst of all, the headwind NEVER went away.  It was there going north and it was there going south.  You say, this is impossible!  But remember, we were right next to the ocean, and the coast is always much windier than the mainland.  So with that headwind, the downhills were not a relief.  You were still going into a headwind most of the time!   Also, I don’t think there is a more uncomfortable position than riding a road bike for long distances.  My neck and shoulders were killing me by the 30 mile mark; my hands and feet were asleep off and on throughout the whole race.  Let’s not even talk about the torture to your ass that a bike seat administers.


It was a humbling experience.


My neck and upper back are brutally sore right now from the position on the bike. My bike time ended up being 3 hours and 10 minutes.


I couldn’t find my stuff!  I went to where I thought it was, and it wasn’t there.  I was perplexed.  I even semi-blamed two women sitting nearby, implying that they moved my stuff.  These ladies then proceeded to help me look for my stuff. I looked EVERYWHERE.  Except for the one row where my stuff actually was.  I was turned around and confused … it was a nightmare.  What should have been a 5 minute transition ended up being almost three times as long.  My time in transition ended up being 13:51.  (The overall winner did this transition in 33 seconds.)


This was also brutal.  I didn’t stop; I ran the whole way.  But I ran so much slower than I thought I was going to.  My legs were shot from the bike.  I thought I could do 8 minute miles AT THE WORST.  I ended up doing just under 9:30 miles.  There’s not much else to say here … except I almost forgot!  They had the last half mile on the sand of the beach.  Through all the beachgoers.  It was ridiculous.  If you’ve ever run on sand, you know what I am talking about.  That was a very cruel ending.  My run time ended up being 2 hours and 4 minutes.


I could have easily knocked off 15-20 minutes with better sighting during the swim and a smoother transition from bike to run.  Maybe I could have knocked another 5-10 minutes with some kind of better biking or running.  That still puts me just under 6 hours – a far cry from my goal of 5 hours.  I trained since April, and I trained hard.  I found the time to do it despite having two businesses to run.  I feel very accomplished.  But, the overwhelming emotion is humility.  I’ll never forget how many people from all walks of life crushed me on the bike.


This blog was originally published at

Race Website: 

Finish Time:  6:18:19

Overall Place:  227

Gender Place:  184

Age Group Place:  36

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