I signed up for Syracuse 70.3 because I had heard it was great prep for IMLP. It also helped knowing that Sergio Vazquez, Moe Emery, Bryan McMillan, and Danny & Suzy Serpico were also going up for the race…
After a somewhat crazy work week that only allowed for 16 hours of sleep over the course of 4 days, I finally made it up to Syracuse late Friday night. I showed up at the race venue around 8:30 pm which was far after the conclusion of the Tri-Club BBQ & Social. From what I hear it was tons of fun and there were cute single ladies (or maybe it was just Lisa Norden but still)… Next time I guess… I went to my hotel, the Quality Inn East Syracuse. Nice establishment – reasonable rates ($64.00 a night), a decent breakfast buffet (DIY Golden Malted Waffles!), and unexpectedly vacant (when in doubt, do what the pros do). Most of the other triathletes were staying in downtown apparently, and I only saw a handful of other racers in the adjoining properties.
Friday hydration – 1 - 24 oz green iced tea, 2 – 24 oz water bottles, 1 lg mocha from Tim Hortons. Considering I drank all this during the 5.5 hour ride up, I was surprised I only stopped once to go to the bathroom. Key indicator I was behind on my hydration. I had some more water once I got to the hotel.
I got 9 hours of sleep Friday night heading into Saturday morning, and was awake earlier than I wanted to be, but couldn’t go back to bed and decided to just get on with the day.
Sat am – quick trip to Target for last minute essentials, then on to the race venue to drive the course with Sergio, Moe, and Bryan, followed by bike racking and athletes meeting.
Sat hydration – 1 – 24 oz bottle of Perform, 2 – 24 oz bottles of water
Sat night – group dinner at Empire (brewery?), standard American fare – I had a salad and a burger. Everyone else liked what they had. Several glasses of ice water were consumed w/ dinner. I got to bed around 10:30 with my alarm set for 4:45 am. Found myself going to the bathroom almost hourly. I felt appropriately hydrated.
Sun am – still screwing around trying to decide what I wanted on my bike – ended up with aerobottle and 2 – 20 oz water bottles of Perform (2 scoops) & Carbo Pro (2 scoops). (340 total cal each bottle). I also mixed up another bottle of Perform only (2 scoops – 140 cal) that I was sipping on during the ride over to the race and also had another 20 oz bottle of water I was sipping off of closer to race start). Breakfast consisted of 2 plain bagels, and 2 blueberry pop-tarts.
Traffic was solid once I got off the highway, there was a handout mentioning alternate routes in as the approach from the north tends to be congested, but things moved pretty quickly and it only took me about 30 minutes total from hotel to parking lot.
Swim – I was in one of the later waves going off at 7:55. The water temp in the reservoir seemed cold – it was announced at 70 degrees the day before, but it seemed colder than that. I had opted for my new sleeveless wetsuit and was regretting my decision to leave the long sleeved one at home. I ended up being fine with the decision after I started to warm up during the swim. The swim itself was rather uneventful however there was a lot of seaweed/grass in the reservoir but it cleared up after the first 100 yards or so and remained clean until the last 100 yards or so… the water was relatively clear and it helped to keep me aware of other swimmers around me. I tried drafting off of some people in my wave and had some success with it, every now and then someone else would cut across my line and then I ended up having to find someone else to draft off of. On the plus side, my choice of wetsuits worked nicely in my favor – my arms weren’t torched at the end. Swim: 38:26 (I thought I did better than that)
Run 1 – from swim to transition was a bit of a hike. No really – it should have it’s own timing marks.
Transition 1 – I forgot to cut the legs on my wetsuit, so that took a bit longer. Also I thought about decorating my bike with some pretty stickers… Transition 1: 4:18
Bike – heading out of the park it’s relatively flat for the first 2-3 miles and then the climbing begins. As I got to the first hill (literally hill) I saw people bailing off their bikes and walking up the hill. I couldn’t believe it… I was concerned because I knew what was coming and if they had to walk this early in the game they were in for a long, long day… Miles 3-12 were mostly climbing. It was slow going but if you’re familiar with the Columbia course it’s nothing worse than, that it’s just sustained for a very long time. It took me almost an hour to get through the first 12 miles (we had been warned). The first aid station was at mile 22-23 and I picked up a bottle of Perform and 1 bottle of water, at the 2nd Aid station I picked up 2 bottles of water and the 3rd I opted once again for 1 Perform and 1 water. After the initial ascent the rest of the course seemed flat/rolling but it was mostly downhill and there were a few segments where I was really able to build up some speed. At one point I looked down at my Garmin and saw I was doing 48 mph while being hit by some wicked cross winds… then with about 15 miles left one of the course marshals said “you’re about to enter the fast part of the course”… and sure enough, I found myself comfortably holding 20+mph for extended periods of time. I finished up all my liquids before making it back to the park for a total of 184 oz of fluid consumed on the bike. (64 oz Perform/Carbo Pro onboard at race start and then 60 oz Perform, 60 oz water). Bike: 3:28:18 (16.13 mph avg)
Transition 2: Took a bit longer than usual, I opted for sockless on the bike, but I wanted socks for the run… lost some time with that… and also following the dismount you still had to walk a bit on asphalt. I grabbed a bag of dried cherries and some honey chews/chomps Transition 2: 2:25
Run – So I didn’t bother to do any run course recon – errantly believing the out and back 2 loop course was just taking place on the road we biked in on… but no, there was a turnoff that led to an epic sized hill. I started off with a rather quick pace, but after about a quarter mile decided I wasn’t going to be able to sustain my speed and dialed it back – good thing too, as there were some rollers heading out of the park. After the first aid station I threw out my chomps and my GU – the extra weight was bothering me, and really it was just insurance, I don’t train with the stuff so it wasn’t that big of a deal. The first bit along Apulia road had very little shade even though there were trees on either side – the sun just kind of beat down and made things hot. Made it to the 2nd aid station just after the 2nd mile marker and grabbed some “hot” water as it had been sitting in the sun all day and was literally hot. I grabbed a cup of ice to cool it down and then tossed both – I shouldn’t have to make my own cold water in the middle of a race… I grabbed some Orange Mango Perform and drank up. I saw Bryan and shouted some words of encouragement – I said he looked good – he said he felt differently… I went on my way and shortly thereafter the hill began. One look at the pitch followed by a glance at my Garmin (heart rate 160 before the hill) told me all I needed to know – time to walk. I saw Moe heading down the hill and we exchanged salutations. At certain points the hill flattened out and I ran those stretches, but mostly I stuck with walking it – no sense in blowing up my heart rate – take it easy and then go fast on the downhill and flats… and for the most part that strategy worked well for me. I started taking advantage of every kind soul who was offered to spray me down with a hose (4 of ‘em along the way). Heading downhill and back towards the park I was feeling confident but the heat was starting to get to me. I saw Sergio out on his first lap and Danny and Suzy who were putting in extra miles after their races were over… I hit the turnaround point and before I even made it back to the main road I recognized I was on thin ice and was very close to having a bad day. I was starting to feel really hot, and was starting to feel sick to my stomach, I knew I was overheating. I opted to slow down my pace considerably and after making it back to the 2nd water stop I drank 4 cups of water. I also took somewhat longer breaks to get hosed down. I may have been drenched but it’s what I needed… (incidentally I was under the impression that the temps were in the low 80's, but after going back and checking it turns out Syracuse hit a high of 91 on race day!)by the top of the hill after mile 10, I was feeling back in the game and with only 3 miles left I felt like I could afford to push it… coming back down the hill I noticed the previously cloudless sky starting to turn angry. I was at the 2nd to last aid station and thought it was odd – they appeared to be packing up! The bike course had only closed 30 minutes prior!!! By the time I made it to mile 11, the lightning had started and shortly thereafter the rain began. I caught back up to Moe, Sergio, and Suzy they all encouraged me to keep going and to finish strong – truthfully the rain was really helping me at this point – I felt reenergized and as good as I had at any other point in the day… I pushed hard as the rain became more intense and as I approached the finish I noticed that the winds had knocked half the finish chute over. I crossed the line quickly and threw up my arms in hopes of getting a picture with my temp. tattoo on my left arm, but nobody was there to take pictures… it was strange… I dropped my arms and looked around – everyone was huddling under tents.
I went to the first tent and asked if I could have my finisher’s medal – some kid unceremoniously handed it over to me. I went to the 2nd tent and fished my own finisher’s hat out of a box. Finally I found an official race photographer and asked if he could snap my picture with my medal. “Can’t do that right now” he said… I was disappointed to say the least.
Run: 2:25:50 (11:07/mi) (but look at the splits - split 1 3.3 miles, 10:53 avg; split 2 3.4 miles, 10:16 avg; split 3.2 miles, 12:44 avg!!! (see I WAS dying!); split 4 3.3 miles, 10:42 avg)
Total: 6:39:17 850/1616 overall, 131/180 in ag
Moe finished shortly after me and sometime thereafter we found out from Suzy that they had closed the course and wouldn’t allow anyone to start the 2nd loop of the run course if they hadn’t already gone out, and that race officials pulled Sergio’s chip but he went out again anyway. It was an unbelievably jarring moment – going from the elation of finishing my first half-iron, to the dejection that everyone was huddled under tents, to the sadness of hearing that Sergio got cut a raw deal to the inspiration of knowing he went back out again anyway. My mind spun. I sat down at a table with Danny, Suzy, Bryan and Moe and then went to go grab food. I got 2 pieces of pizza and 2 ham sandwiches and a carton of chocolate milk, and some water. Later on I’d go back and get 2 more ham sandwiches… yeah, I was hungry but whatever, I just did 70.3 miles, right? I think I’m allowed.
The announcements cited that there was going to be a brief clearing but then there was a secondary line of storms that would soon follow and they wanted everyone to seek shelter. In retrospect it seems as if they made the decision to close the course much earlier which is why the aid station was closing up… it was rather unfortunate as there were still a good deal of runners out there.
Eventually I packed up my gear, but the parking lot was a mess… I wandered around and went to the last aid station where everyone was still huddled under a tent – the race was done an hour ago but they couldn’t leave yet. I asked what they were going to do with all the supplies and they said “if you want something – take it… in fact go get your car and fill it up”. OK. No need to tell me twice. I snaked my car around the backside of the lot and pulled right up – I ended up with 18 cases of the Orange Mango (run course) flavored Perform, a case of oranges (we’ll say there was at least 100 in there), and a case of bananas (48 bunches(!) sounds about right). I also grabbed a gallon of water. Score. Eventually the traffic died down and I left… surreal ending to an otherwise amazing day…
Overall I had a good time, the course was fun and interesting and pretty and all that, but I’m not sure it warrants a repeat attempt, or at least I don’t have the bug to do it again. So there you have it… Syracuse 70.3 my first half-iron… Onward!