Ironman Princeton 70.3 is now in the books! My goal for my first 70.3 was to finish around 6:30 to 7 hours and I came in at 6 hours 52 minutes. Now with the experience of my first race, I have a much better understanding of the things I need to work on!
I was so so so worried about getting through the swim. I can swim all day in the pool, for hours, literally. But my fear of the open water was tough to get past. I have competed in many Sprint Tris, and the swim was always me weakest leg. In my ironman, not only was I facing the longest open water swim I have ever attempted, but I found out when we arrived that the starting line was about 150 yards out on the other side of the lake… and we were going to need to swim out and tread water for several minutes until the started my wave!! As soon as they called my wave into the water, I immediately began to hyperventilate. My nervousness combined with the cold water (I chose not to wear my wetsuit) was to blame. About half way over to the finish line I stopped swimming and began to side stroke the rest of the way. Once I got to the starting area I noticed a few rocks near the bank wear several other athletes were standing, instead of treading water. THANK GOD! It was at this point I was able to stand up, calm back down, and prepare myself mentally for the swim. About 2 minutes later they fired the air horn and we were off. There were 12 buoys all kept to our left hand side. I told myself mentally, let’s just get to the first buoy and take it one at a time. Once the initial chaos calmed, and we began to spread out, I knew I would be OK. Aside from the occasional slower swimmers form the early waves that I had to pass, and the more often faster swimmer running into me from behind, it was a pretty good swim! I can now honestly say I am completely confident and over my fear of open water swimming. My suggestion to new triathletes is to try and visualize the swim start, this will help calm your nerves. I also STRONGLY suggest to get your body used to the water temp. The initial shock of colder water can be overwhelming when your nervous! I was out of the water in 50:01 (My goal was 50 minutes).
My biking is certainly where I have the most room for improvement. I was able to maintain an approximate 16 MPH average speed, which was what I was shooting for. The course however was extremely rugged, and I was very lucky to escape with no flat tires. I passed at least 50 people throughout the bike course changing a flat! The first 8 and last 8 miles were relatively flat, with rolling hills throughout the middle. With my wave starting 3rd to last in this event, I definitely found myself passing many more athletes during the bike leg over any other leg. I was able to carry a 17.8 MPH average through the first 32 miles (first and only split during the bike leg). It was towards the end where I began to Bonk a good bit. I thought that overall my nutrition was on track during this leg. I began with a pack of block shots right out of transition, and then had a banana, 2 stinger waffler, and a protein bar. Looking back I think I would have added a little more to eat during this leg. I was able to finish the bike leg in about 3 and half hours (this was about 20 minutes slower than my goal). Biking is certainly where I have the most time to gain, and will be working the trainer hard over the winter. My goal is to get my bike time down under 3 hours next year in my next 70.3.
By the time I hit the run leg I could really start to feel my body wearing down. Running is most definitely my strongest leg, however I am certainly not accustomed to running a half marathon after a 56 mile bike and 1.2 mile swim! My hope was to carry an 8:30 – 9:00 average pace through the run and I was no-where near this. I came out of transition eating another stinger waffle and running relatively strong, around a 9:30 pace. I was able to maintain this pace for the first 5-6 miles, and I started becoming VERY hungry, and cramping up a good bit. I was consuming salt pills towards the end of the bike, and probably swallowed about 20-25 of them throughout the run (they really do help with cramps). I walked through the water and nutrition station at mile 6 and drank a little perform, and had a break the bonk bar (first I had ever seen these). It seemed to help a little bit and I was back off. From miles 6-10 I carried about a 10:45 pace. I was still passing people from the age groups ahead of me at this point however by this point it was very obvious when separating the first timers from the vets. The run course was a 2 loop course, and during my first loop is when the people who had done this before had started to pull away. From this experience I can obviously take away the need for even more work on my long distance endurance, however my nutrition is where I need some help. As soon as I became increasingly hungry I began to run out of energy. I will be working on this throughout the winter for next year as well! The last 3 miles (with excepting of the last half mile) were tough. I was running at about a 12:30 pace just gunning for the finish. I think I even tried red bull at the last water station in hopes that the sugar would provide the added boost that I needed. But it wasn’t until I could hear the music at the finish line, about a half mile away, when my adrenaline started to take over. For those of who have competed in these types of event, you can all relate that there is not a feeling in the world that can compare to the tingling sensation that takes over when you about to hit the finish line. The ultimate feeling of self accomplishment, the excited and supporting family waiting for you at the finish, and yes, the bad@ss (sorry) music blaring can provide a boost of adrenaline that makes one feel more inspired then ever before. This very moment I thought to myself, as I became teary eyed and experience shortness in breathing due to exciting, is exactly what I am a triathlete. I can only hope that anyone reading this can experience this feeling if they never have before! My run time was 2 hours and 15 minutes approximately.
If you look back to one of my first posts, when I traveled up to New Hampshire to watch my sister compete in the Timberman 70.3, I talked about how standing at the finish line and watching the athletes experience the ultimate feeling of accomplishment is what inspired me to keep it going. Having now been able to experience this for myself, I am addicted! Triathlon is now a big part of my life, and I am determined to get faster! I would also highly recommend Ironman Princeton next year, and it was a very professional, impressive, and well put together event. My only complaints were the rough terrain in parts of the bike course, and the fact that the bike course was about 2 miles longer than 56 miles!