Triathlon, Racing

2019 Grand Rapids Triathlon 70.3

Yes, you read that right. I did a 70.3! I’ve actually done 2 in the past but the first one was 5ish years ago when I first started competing in triathlon and had no idea what I was doing. The second one was in 2017 just one week after the USA Triathlon National Championships and I had done almost no specific training for the 70.3 (i.e., my longest run was 11 miles 3 months before the race and my longest ride *might* have been 50 miles). I wanted to give the 70.3 distance a fair shot before I decided if I liked it or not.

So I spent the winter training with this race in mind putting in some good long runs and bikes leading up to the race. I did a tune-up 25k run a few weeks before the 70.3 that you can read about here. After the 25k, I knew I was ready to run fast. And the swim for a 70.3 is only 500 yards longer than the Olympic distance so that wouldn’t be a problem. The big question mark would be how I would fare over the 56-mile bike ride. So buckle up and find out how it went!

Swim- First out of the water! (Kind of)
Time- 26:50
Place- 2nd

Before the horn went off, I made sure to line up next to Eric. My goal was just to stay on his feet the entire time, no matter how hard I had to go. We messed around a little bit before the start and I jumped on his back and he swam a couple of strokes while I was hanging on him like a monkey haha. The horn went off and I took it out hard but not unsustainable. I was right next to Eric for quite a while before I decided to just settle in right behind him and stay on his feet. After the first 500 yards, I kept hitting his feet (sorry Eric!) so I decided to move out to the side of him. There was one other swimmer who wasn't too far ahead of us and I made the decision to try and bridge the gap. I got close but never quite right on his feet. After about 1500 yards, another swimmer came up and passed me like I wasn't even moving. Where did this guy come from?? Then, in the last 50-100 yards, another guy came by me. At first, I thought it was Eric who had just been sitting on my feet the entire time and wanted to beat me out of the water. But when I looked at him, I noticed it wasn't Eric’s wetsuit so I'm not sure who it was. I ended up beating Eric out of the water by 50 seconds, had a 2-minute lead on Brian Reynolds and a 4-minute lead on Ryan Giuliano. I had a FANTASTIC swim! 1:09/100y according to my watch. I was actually 3rd out of the water but 1 of those was a relay and the other DNF'd so does that mean I had the fastest swim??

T1- For-ev-er
Time- 2:26
Place- 2nd

The GR Tri transition is so long...and narrow! You have to try and weave your way in and out between people on an aisle that isn't more than 4 feet wide. People were still setting up their bikes for the later races but thankfully, there wasn't too much congestion. I had some trouble getting my arms in the sleeves of my tri suit because I wore it around my waist to reduce restriction on my shoulders. I finally got it sorted right as I was getting to my transition area. Eric wasn't too far behind me and said "That was a pretty good swim for you." I said, "Yeah, not too shabby." But really, I was thinking, "That was a really good swim! Not just for me but for anyone!" I put on socks for the 56 mile ride and headed out of T1. I tried slipping my feet into the shoes and my left strap came undone. If this would've been a shorter race, I probably would have just left it. But because I had to ride 56 miles, I took the time to re-strap it and continue on. It only cost me a few seconds but it seemed like forever.

Bike- Going backwards. And I wasn’t even going that slow!
Time- 2:19:04 (24.2mph)
Place- 4th

Almost immediately off the bike, I was in the lead. Holy crap, this was unexpected! I tried to settle into a good pace and make sure I was staying as aerodynamic as possible. I ate a GU stroopwafel as soon as I got on the bike. It was going to be important that I stayed fueled and hydrated during this long day. I had 3 stroops with me, my GU Energy drink mix in my front bottle, and Precision Hydration 1500 in my rear bottle. After 12.5 minutes, Eric came blazing by me. I tried to stay with him for a while, but I knew I wouldn't be able to sustain that kind of effort so I let him go. At the first aid station, I grabbed a water to top off my front bottle. It was really difficult to get my rear bottle out so I had to sit up and really yank on it. I think the extra electrolytes really help me, though. As someone who is notorious for cramping, getting those extra electrolytes really seem to help.

The right bar and pad shouldn’t look like that…

After 40 minutes, Brian came up on me. Dang. I was hoping to hold him off for a little (okay, a lotta) bit longer. We are pretty comparable runners so I knew that when he caught me so soon during the bike, there would be no way I could run him down. I just tried to focus on staying in a good position on my bike and not pushing too hard because there was still a lot of race left. I was staying tucked in and keeping my head down when all of a sudden, there was a pothole in the road that I couldn’t avoid. I hit it straight on and my right aerobar came loose from the clamp. Not so loose that it was just hanging there, but loose enough that it rotated and I couldn't rotate it back by hand. It kept getting progressively worse throughout the race so I wasn't able to keep a good aerodynamic position and my right shoulder was becoming increasingly sore because of the position I had to hold my arm.

On the way out to the turnaround, there was a stretch of road from mile 26.5-32.75 that was RIDICULOUSLY rough. There was a sign on the side of the road that said, "Caution rough road ahead" I think my exact thoughts were, "No sh!t" haha. During this stretch, I must've lost my rear bottle because I went to grab for it later in the race and it wasn't there. Bye bye, electrolytes! At the turnaround, I took a couple of splits to see how far back I was from Eric and Brian and to see who was closing in on me. I was about 6 minutes back from Eric and 4 minutes back from Brian. Oh, and Ryan was RIGHT behind me. As he passed me, I told him, "I was hoping to hold you off for a little bit longer than this!" After the turnaround, I was now in 4th overall with 2 guys in Brian and Ryan who are just as strong of runners as I am and with Eric who is a much stronger cyclist and already had a 6-minute lead on me at the halfway point. This was not the place I wanted to be in.

Oh, and my right aerobar was just getting worse. The second half of the bike was pretty uneventful. I didn't have anyone else pass me and I didn't pass anyone else. I ate my 2nd stroop around the halfway point and my third at the 45-mile mark. I had also drank a lot of water (only about half of my electrolytes, though) and I had to pee pretty bad. So on one of the climbs, I got out of the saddle and just let it fly. It's a lot harder than you might think to pee your pants. We've spent our entire lives trying NOT to pee our pants and to overcome that mental barrier is very challenging. Now I'm worried that I'm just going to start peeing my pants in my everyday life! haha. My 10k splits were all pretty even (212W, 211W, 211W, 203W, 205W, 206W, 205W, 203W, 199W). Overall, I averaged 203W and 24.2mph which seemed pretty good to me until I looked a little closer at the results and saw that I only had the 8th fastest bike and that Brian beat me by 8 minutes, averaging 25.7mph!

T2- Still so long
Time- 1:52
Place- 4th

No issues with T2 except for the fact that I forgot to tighten the lock laces on my shoes. It wasn't a big deal, though, because the shoes were still pretty snug. I didn't take the stroopwafel that I had planned to at the beginning of the run and just grabbed a gel. Dad told me I was 7 minutes down from Brian as I was leaving T2. I was NOT going to make up that deficit.

Run- I’ve had better days
Time- 1:18:00
Place- 3rd

I knew I was quite a way back from Brian but I wasn't sure how far ahead Eric and Ryan were. I knew I probably wasn't going to catch Ryan because last year, he ran a 1:13 on this course. Even if I ran a half-marathon PR, I would have trouble catching him. And depending on the day Eric was having, I would have trouble catching him too. Just before mile 3, I saw Brian making one of the out-and-back turns we have to make. He was almost a mile ahead of me already! He was having a great day. I saw Ryan and then Eric next. Ryan was about 3 minutes ahead of me and Eric was about 90 seconds.

I caught Eric around mile 4 and told him 70.3 is too far haha. He gave me some words of encouragement and I kept going. Around mile 6, I could feel some grumbling in my belly. I still had over half the race to go and I knew I couldn't make it without visiting New Jersey (if you know you know). I waited until mile 8.5 before making the trip. I took my time because I knew I wasn't going to catch Ryan and there wasn't anyone closing in behind me. It cost me a little over one minute but I felt a lot more comfortable and didn't have to worry about visiting NJ while I was running. I saw my friend, Deanna, as I was coming to the finish. She was trying to encourage me to run faster (even though I was already running 5:50/mile pace) and I told her I was good just cruising it in. No need to push it because I wasn't going to change my position.

Photo credit: Stellafly (Laura Caprara)

My one-mile splits were pretty consistently in the 5:50s (except mile 3 at 5:37 and mile 8 at 7:12 with the NJ visit). I just never felt like I could push the pace very hard. Not just on the run, but on the bike too. The race is so long that it isn't very taxing cardiovascularly. It's more of a muscular endurance race. So my heart and lungs weren't being pushed anywhere close to their limits. It was just about making sure that I made it to the finish without the pace dropping off drastically and making sure I didn't cramp. I was actually less sore after this race than I normally am for an Olympic distance race. Except for my back and shoulders. Those were really sore from holding the aero position on the bike for so long (and because my right aerobar was messed up causing my shoulder to be in an unusual position). To me, this wasn't really "racing". It was just about managing the distance.

Finish time- 4:08:12
3rd Place Overall

So even though I had a relatively good race, I think I will stick to the shorter races for now. I like to go fast! And I didn't get to spend as much time with my parents or friends after the race because it took twice as long as an Olympic. So thank you 70.3 distance. See you in another year or two ✌

As always, thanks to my friends and family for their support. Special thanks to Ben Hammer and his wife, Lisa, for opening their home to me and fellow Every Man Jack teammate, Matt Barcus, for dinner Saturday night before the race. A shout-out to Eric for getting my bike all tuned up before the race (although, now that I think about it, maybe he tried to sabotage me with the aerobar…🤔😂). Thanks to Coach Barb for working with me to try something outside of my wheelhouse. Of course, my parents, for coming to watch me for 30 seconds over the course of 4 hours. Ugh, I still can’t believe they did that. Just another reason I don’t want to do 70.3…And to all my friends out on the course who said hi, cheered me on, or ran alongside me. It’s always fun to race among friends!