Ironman 70.3 Raleigh - 3:58:42 (4th)
Two weeks, two races, two podiums, two 4th place finishes, too tired … I’m excited to report another solid 4th place finish at Ironman 70.3 Raleigh. With my second podium in the past two weeks, I am now positioned much better in my hopes of securing a spot at the World Championships later this fall.
Racing twice in two weeks is no easy feat, especially when this is now my third race in five weeks. Combine that with all the work travel I’ve had and it becomes extremely difficult to navigate training and recovery. My coach Jesse was instrumental and making sure I was as prepared as possible for this weekend. The two weeks since Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga played out as follows:
To say I have a hectic schedule is a total understatement. Fortunately, I am finally done with my weekly trips to NYC. Since Oceanside, I have been traveling to NYC each week, eating up training time, hurting recovery, and just making life more stressful than it needs to be. Putting this behind me is a welcome relief as I can get back to my usual routines.
With so much going in the last two weeks, getting in quality training was very difficult. That said, you can’t add fitness in such a short time; you can only screw up your recovery and preparation for the next race. My one big training session came over the weekend as my buddy Robbie and I ventured to Tahoe to hit up some altitude riding. We did a full loop around the lake on Saturday in brutally cold, wet conditions – think 40 degrees and non-stop rain for 4 hours. Despite the harsh conditions, the riding was beautiful and I got some quality work to help revitalize my legs a bit.
Some images from Tahoe:
Race week was upon me quickly and yet another trip to NYC. I got hampered by delays and wound up getting into the city after midnight. I arrived at my usual hotel, the Hilton Midtown, only to discover that I (like an idiot) made the reservation for the 29th – 31st (my race hotel dates). Of course they were fully booked, so I walked out at 1AM without a place to stay. Fortunately, I called the good folks at Hilton and they were able to get me a room that evening at the Waldorf Astoria. If this sounds ritzy, stiff, and opulent, it is. I probably would have enjoyed this much more if I was a 70 year old trying to impress my young escort of the evening … which I think the person in the room next to me was doing.
As one of my final trips, I connected with all my close friends from Penn Track for dinner. My best man Jeff Weinstein recently got engaged so we celebrated and caught up. The next morning, I was up at 5:30 (which especially hurt since I hadn’t adjusted to the time yet) and was off to JFK again; this time with Raleigh as my terminus.
I arrived in Raleigh early and checked in with Dan and Elizabeth, my awesome AirBNB hosts. They had a beautiful home walking distance from downtown. This was my first time using AirBNB and I am completely sold! My experience staying with Dan and Elizabeth far exceeded the Waldorf Astoria. Once settled, I checked in and picked up my bike from Tri-Bike Transport. I owe these guys big time! There is no way I would be able to manage all the traveling around and logistics of the past two weeks with my bike in tow.
Friday and Saturday were largely spent going through my usual routine of race prep: ride course preview with some efforts, pancakes, run course preview, short shake run and swim, and more food/water. My legs didn’t feel quite as peppy and fresh as usual, but I was quietly confident in my fitness and knew that I could pull out a good result even on a mediocre day. With the evolving start list, I was more enthusiastic and excited about this race than I have been in a while. I set a goal to get top 5 but really was reaching for my first top 3 finish.
Having felt very relaxed and comfortable on the swim at Chattanooga, I decided to throw myself a bit more in the mix at Raleigh and lined myself up next to the strongest swimmers. I got out well and tried to latch on as best I could without over exerting myself. After 200m, the fast guys were clearly gone and I had established myself as the head of the “second” pack, a spot I am becoming familiar with. I wanted to keep the effort high and I maintained the leading position until about 1500m. The choppy water on the longest stretch certainly made this tiring, but I was relieved of my duties up front with 500m to go and was able to relax a bit more.
Overall, the swim was solid. Another decent swim for me, but again leaving me several minutes back of the competitors I would eventually have to chase down. The time was slow, in part due to choppy conditions, lack of a wetsuit, but mostly because it was at least 200m long.
Once onto the bike, I charged hard at first to try and shake the 7+ guys who I had dragged along with me on the swim. After a few miles, my effort had been ineffective and I was still towing everyone behind. There were a few rotated pulls, but I found the effort to be too lax when others were at the helm. For the first 28 miles, I maintained a front position probably 80-90% of the time, driving a stiff pace. In the latter half of the bike, I realized that I wasn’t going to shake everyone and that I should conserve something for the run. It was already getting hot out and I knew I would have a harsh test ahead.
I allowed some athletes to rotate ahead. This was extremely frustrating as most did not keep and even pace and often went too light on the hills, coasted on the down hills, didn’t have the technical skills to properly maintain momentum through the corners, and was generally not hard enough at the front. When I got to the front and did my usual solo pacing, I wound up opening a gap that the group slowly rotated through to make up.
All in all, I think a more experienced, organized group would have allowed us to better manage the deficit on the bike. With fresher legs, I’d probably be able to pull away on my own, but that was not today. In all, we only lost two minutes to Chrabot and actually picked up time on Reed so I can’t complain too much.
Run (1:15:42 - race fastest)
Calling this a “run” is not at all appropriate. This was a 13.1 mile death march of attrition. The sun was out and the heat was on! The two loop out and back course featured rolling uphill terrain with a headwind on the way out and the opposite (obviously) on the way back. The first three miles were similar to Chattanooga in that I wanted nothing but to stop the pain. I repeated to myself, “just die less” – meaning that everyone was suffering and going backwards, I just had to not go as far backwards – and I would be able to move my way up. In the first 4 miles, I quickly erased the two minute gap to the next two competitors and put myself into 5th place. I continued to work through it and made a definitive pass into 4th around mile 6/7. From here, I could see Matt Reed in third a decent distance up the road. The big man was not dying quite as much as I was hoping he would. With some early signs of cramping, dehydration, and a persistent taste of blood in my mouth, I was not able to dig too much deeper to try and risk closing the gap. With three miles to go, I was about 1:15 back – which usually wouldn’t be a problem. In these brutal conditions, that gap was an impossibility. I maintained pace hoping Reed would falter and I could make a hard move in the last mile, but in true veteran form he pulled out a strong finish and got a well-deserved third. For me, I finished soon after taking home another fourth place finish and grabbing the day’s “fastest” run splits.
Overall, I’m happy with the result and get quite a few points toward qualifying for worlds. With my schedule no longer as hectic, I get some time to fall back into routine and prepare for my next race at Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs at the end of June.