2013 Ironman Racine 70.3 Race Recap
While the soreness from Ironman Racine 70.3 is gone, the memories from the race certainly are NOT!
Wow…what an experience. I’m still trying to process everything. Over 2200 racers all crammed into one area. Everyone from professionals and Olympians to, well, me. With this being a Sunday race I knew I would be missing church, but I had a pretty good feeling that I would be talking to the Lord frequently during my race, and I was right. Simply: It was tough.
The road to IM Racine started for Graham, my racing buddy, and I months ago when we kicked things into training mode–tackling 70.3 miles in one workout is no small feat–but things got VERY real the Friday night before the race when we stuck our feet in Lake Michigan. Not the best idea we’ve had. To say the lake was “cold” would be an understatement.
As we found out during Saturday’s pre-race meeting, the previous week’s water temperature was 72 degrees. According to the USAT, water temps under 78 degrees mean the race is “wetsuit legal.” Graham and I had been training in our wetsuits and were pretty sure we wouldn’t hit that magic number. Man, were we right. Unfortunately, we didn’t know how right we’d be.
After telling us that the water temp was at 72 degrees, the race director went on to say that after a storm blew through on Friday night, Lake Michigan had “turned over.” I found out that “turned over” is Great-Lakes-speak for “HAHAHAHA!!!! You’re planning on swimming in THAT water? You’re an idiot!” With Lake Michigan turning over came a temperature drop, and not a little one either. Friday night’s water temp was a frigid 59 degrees and Saturday’s temp was measured anywhere between 61 and 64 degrees. Ouch.
Those temps solidified the fact that IM Racine would, in fact, be wetsuit legal. So, come on everybody, jump on in…the water’s fine!
After wrapping up the pre-race meeting, Graham and I went to check in to sign our race wavers and pick up our race packets, which included our bib number, our swim cap, and a shirt.
There was something pretty cool about picking up that packet. Just knowing that the race was the following morning got my adrenaline flowing. After checking in, Graham and I proceeded to the Transition Area (TA) to rack our bikes. Typically we don’t have to rack our bikes the night before, but we had to for IM Racine, and I actually liked it that way. Sunday morning was a lot less stressful with not having to worry about our bikes.
Graham and I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon and evening relaxing and double checking our race gear. We practiced getting out of our wetsuits and made sure all of our essentials were in place for race day.
Sunday morning meant an early alarm, as per usual. The TA was only open from 5:00 — 6:30, and although our swim wave didn’t go until 8:00, we still had to have everything in place by 6:30. We arrived at the TA around 5:30 and had plenty of time to set up before heading out on our one mile walk up the shore to the swim start.
We headed to the swim start in time to see the professionals go off at 7:00. I have to say, the IM Racine field was LOADED. There were several Ironman winners and Ironman 70.3 winners, as well as Olympians. DANG, those athletes are amazing, and I have no idea how they race the distances they do, week in and week out, all over the world. They are truly incredible.
Around 6:45 we got in the lake to do our warmup swimming, although it was far from “warming.” I think it goes without saying, the water was cold. Very cold. And choppy. And by “choppy,” I mean three-to-five-foot swells. No joke. We knew we were in for an adventure!
With each swim wave that entered the water, my nerves grew. I’ve always been a fan of nerves when competing. Personally, I think being a little nervous means I’m doing something right. Sure, maybe I’m teetering on the edge of “crazy,” but I’ll take being on that edge any day of the week compared to not being there at all. I’m battling against myself. Battling against the competition. Standing face-to-face with the unknown. Fairly certain of the outcome, yet cautiously optimistic. For me, feeling nervous means I’m living life rather than just existing.
I’ll never forget the Race Director giving us the “One minute!” warning and “Thirty seconds!” warning as we approached our 8:00 start time. By this time, my nerves had changed into kid-like anticipation and adrenaline. I was focused and ready to race!
The 1.2 mile swim was rough. I wasn’t lying about the 3 – 5′ swells in Lake Michigan. Combine the swells with the ridiculously cold water temp (official race temp: 66.5 degrees), and you had a bad combination for many racers. I heard (unconfirmed) that upwards of 200 racers had to be pulled from the water. Nearly 10% of racers took a DNF (Did Not Finish)? That’s a jaw-dropping number. Thankfully, neither Graham nor I were among those 200. Our wives did confirm that they saw several ambulances on the beach with sirens blaring headed toward the water to tend to swimmers. They also saw countless swimmers sobbing, sitting with their wetsuits off, while being consoled by their friends and family. Like I said, it was a rough swim.
I made it out of the water in 44:34, right on time with the 40-45 minutes in which I felt I could finish the swim. I felt good and headed to the TA to get on my bike. Graham was a couple minutes behind me, and our plan was to bike together, so I took my time getting ready for the almost-three-and-a-half-hour ride that was ahead of me.
After checking to make sure we were good to go, we headed out on the bike course.
The bike course was long (56 miles) and BUMPY. Hitting the asphalt patch seams in the road felt like someone was hitting the bottom of my bike saddle with a sledgehammer every 20-30 yards. Not fun and NOT comfortable. There were a few rolling hills, but nothing like the ones I trained on while riding around Middle Tennessee. I finished the bike in 3:18:51, which was right where I expected to be. Again, I was right on pace to finish in six-and-a-half hours.
After completing the bike, it was on to the 13.1-mile run. By this time, the sun was coming out and the air temp was starting to warm up a bit, but I think we topped out around 80 degrees that day. We were very fortunate to have had such great weather. The run course was a two-loop course. On my first loop I felt great and was still on pace to hit my time goal. I was running at an 11-minute mile pace. Not my fastest, but I knew if I could keep that pace, I’d be ok.
While I was happy with my first-loop pace, about halfway through my second loop I hit the wall. I slowed to a near-crawl pace and at one point ran a 14-minute mile, way off my typical pace. I knew going in to IM Racine that I wouldn’t be running 8-minute miles the whole time, but I was shocked that I had slowed to a 14-minute mile pace. I told myself that I had to keep jogging, that if I started walking, I’d be toast…and I was right. On the back half of the second loop, my body just didn’t have anything left, and I walked a large part of the last 2.5 to 3 miles. Not my proudest moment, but my tune quickly changed as I approached the finish line.
With family and friends there to cheer me on, I could help but celebrate as I crossed the finish line!
Ironman Racine 70.3 was one of the most challenging things I’ve done, yet one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. To think that I was able to complete 70.3 miles in one shot is still mind-boggling to me. It’s something I won’t soon forget, and not just because of the Finisher Medal and Finisher Hat we received at the finish line. The memory of IM Racine will forever be emblazoned on my mind. Honestly, I still have a hard time believing that Graham and I did it! I finished in 6:55 and Graham finished in 7:01.
One of the things that I was happiest about with Ironman Racine 70.3 is that I raced it pain free. My torn labrum in my left hip didn’t bother me once. Nor did I feel the top of my right foot that had bothered me during some of my training runs. Other than some “general” body aches from pushing myself for 70.3 miles, I felt really good. And to top it all off, I recovered extremely quickly. By Thursday my race aches were 100% gone, and I considered myself “back to normal.” I can honestly give Egoscue all the credit for keeping me healthy throughout this whole process.
While I was feeling good in just a few short days, I can’t imagine racing the following weekend like the pros do. It’s safe to say, those men and women are some amazing athletes!
QUESTION: Ironman Racing 70.3 was one of the toughest physical challenges I’ve ever undertaken. What’s the toughest physical thing you’ve ever done?