Race Report: IM 70.3 Muskoka


I know, I know, the race was in July and it’s now…well…SEPTEMBER, but some of us have been lazy in our blog posting so blah, blah, blah, judge if you must, but here’s the race report for Ironman Muskoka (70.3) I sent my coach back in July, with very little editing so you can get a taste of why my coach is so awesome, considering the sassy/uncensored yammering he gets from me on a weekly basis.  

Oh yeah, as a caution to you sweet reader, this is a LONG post, you may need to get up and stretch/walk around a bit, or mayhaps even pause for a snack and a nap.  I'm okay with that, just make sure you come back and finished what ya started! :)

Ironman 70.3 Muskoka
Huntsville, Ontario Canada
Sunday July 10, 2016

I’ll go ahead and apologize now: I’m sorry (not sorry) that I’m about to go all “Memento” the movie on you. But right now, I’m thinking all disjointed and am WAY too tired to carve it all out, making it all nice, neat and clean for your ease…so tired that I’m WAITING for it to get dark so I can go to sleep without feeling like a 2yr old who has to go to bed before the sun sets.

On the plane home last night, I was thinking about the race and I came to the rather freeing conclusion that this race will always be difficult for me no matter the outcome. It holds a place of significance in my life as a triathlete and every year I return, I feel like I need to see calculable improvement. And when that improvement seems too small or non-existent, I’ll crucify myself mentally for my perceived lack/falling short of what will always be a rather high goal. Because when I’m honest with myself, ANY improvement year-over-year on that course is worthy of much celebration. Once I really allowed myself to understand that, it made reviewing/walking through my race a lot more productive and a lot less ‘why didn’t I do better?’

I didn’t think to grab the weather before start, but it was in the high 50s, with low humidity and sunny. And in the run that sunny translated to a HORRIBLE sunburn on both shoulders and my back. WHO GETS A SUNBURN IN A RACE?!?!? Fifth year racing and I get a dadgum sunburn for the first time in a race!

I read the race plan the night before and then again a couple times race morning. And as much as I know I needed to make it about the run, in my mind the ONLY thing I wanted to do was to deliver a strong, intelligent, strategic bike and I did!

Coming out of the swim, It took 15-30 minutes for me to settle into the ride and calm myself down. My heart was racing, my mind was racing, I was trying to be strategic, my legs were trying to shake out from the swim. But I finally settled in.

 Photo Credit: FinisherPix (finisherpix.com)

Photo Credit: FinisherPix (finisherpix.com)

AND because no story is a good story without pictures, I wanted to show you this picture. I don’t remember seeing this guy (I remember one photographer and he was close to transition). And who the hell takes pictures on a hill? But THIS picture really captures how I felt about my ride both during the ride and when I got into transition.

Every hill I was smart, kept my eyes down, rode the hill under me, not the hill in front of me. I worked all my gears throughout the climb, listening to the hill pushing back where needed, some hills (that I’d previously walked the first two years) I was out of the saddle powering up the hill, feeling strong. I rode to the 25K and every 25K I got faster. The first 25K, I was at 1:08, the second 2:10 and the third 3:12.

I never got fuzzy, I fueled 3 shot bloks at the top of the ride and every :30 after. I salted every time I fueled. I took 64 ozs of water/crystal light/nuun and 24 oz of undiluted powerade and finished it all disposing of 2 of the bottles at hand-up points. I couldn’t’ve asked for a better execution of my ride on that day.

Now, here’s where the rub comes. When I got back to the hotel and looked at my results (4:08:26 which by the way the thing I HATE about this race is that they make you ride 58 miles, but only credit 56. But give you the time of the 58 miles so you look slower than you actually are…), I took time off of last year, BUT I didn’t take time off from my original time in 2014. As a matter of fact, I was slower than 2014, and in 2014 I got off and walked TWICE and the last two miles of the race in 2014, I was crying and cried all the way through transition into the run.

I don’t understand at all. As I felt like I rode the best ride I’ve ever ridden in a race (outside of the Mayor’s Triathlon in FW in 2014 where I TOTES wailed and laid down a wicked fast time) and when I entered transition, I felt really good about the ride, an attitude that didn’t exist in the last two years AND in the last few miles I was still smiling and feeling good as opposed to wishing to sweet baby Jesus in a manager that the ride would be over. The only bad/discouraging thing that happened on the ride was when I dropped my chain in the last 10K and had to get off and fix it, other than that, I rode great! But my results don’t show it in either my division rank or my overall rank I don’t know how to rectify that in my mind. Did I not push hard enough? Was my feeling good about the ride not warranted? Am I thinking I did good when I could’ve done better? I’m perplexed, what I thought was good wasn’t really all that praiseworthy when compared to the original plumb line.

I have told you this several times and it bears repeating: I HATE DRAFTING ON THE SWIM AND IT SLOWS ME DOWN!!! On the swim, within the first 400, I was off course because I was drafting. I know you give the logic of drafting that it saves energy and blah, blah, blah…but you know what EATS up energy? Me going off course…or me trying to match someone else’s stroke pattern. BOTH times I’ve tried to draft in a race, I ended up off course and had to correct and spent the rest of the time mad that I ate up time getting off course. Last year, when I PR’ed, I stayed with the pack as long as possible and when I was finally dropped, I found a rhythm, settled in and sighted every eight strokes the way Mineo taught me. Every once in a while people would swim by and I’d pick up pace with them, but for the most part I swam on my own and was the better person for it mentally. And for me it’s more mental than physical.

This year, when I came off course, WAY off course (about 75 off (one way) if I counted my strokes right), I corrected, and then fell into my own rhythm again. In the back 40 there was a current perpendicular to us hitting us on the right side (kinda sucky because it pushed against us, pushing us away from the course) which was ODD because there wasn’t a current the last two years. But the good thing was after swimming in Lake Michigan last year at USAT AGNC in Milwaukee, I knew how to adjust because Lake Michigan had a wicked current. So I made the adjustment.

The ‘yea me’ take away from the swim was that I learned how to pee and swim at the same time! I was SOOOO proud. I was about 800 out from the end and I knew I’d have to take the time to go to the bathroom in transition, so I peed…while swimming…didn’t break stride. It took a couple minutes to convince my bladder to do so, BUT I DID IT!!!!!! GO ME!!! Anywho, I’m not at all upset about adding two minutes from last year. I feel good about my swim. Outside of not drafting I wouldn’t change anything about it.

And finally, the run. I’m not sure how to communicate with you the breakdown. Even though I was really happy with my ride going into transition, coming out of transition after the bike, the very first question I asked myself was: “how are we going to get through this?” And I know I need to fight the demons, I know it was supposed to be all about the run, but there was nothing there, nothing left. I kept fighting with myself saying: “use the running form you’ve gotten so good at to pull you through.” But even that didn’t work. Pick ‘em up, put ‘em down, I couldn’t maintain that.

I fueled at the top of the run, then at :30 then stopped fueling altogether because my stomach was shut down for business. I did however continue to salt every :30 and I stopped at ever water station and drank water, Gatorade, water. And around the 10K mark, I also poured a cup of water over my head at every stop.

I want to say it was a mental breakdown, but having put honest thought into it over the last week, I think it was a combination of mental and physical breakdown. The weather was great, it was mostly sunny in the high 70s and humidity was low, there was even a breeze so the weather wasn’t a factor. Yeah, sucks that most of the route wasn’t shaded, but once again, I know it wasn’t the weather. I tried to stick to the 9/1 (nine minute run/1 minute walk) race plan and quickly gave that up. Then I tried running to every water stop (they were about every 2K) and then walking through the water stop and for a minute afterwards. And that eventually fell apart as well. Around the 10K mark, it quit being a race and became a quest to get to the finish line before I died or before the course cut-off. Turns out I was successful at both. But my biggest frustration about the run is I can’t tell you what went wrong. Why this happened. And if I can’t tell you then I can’t learn from it/fix it.

All-in-all, at the end of the race I was in a dark spot. But as time has passed and I’ve put space between the race and me, I’m okay with what I did. And as I said at the top of this race report, I will always look at Muskoka through a horribly skewed comparison microscope. Can’t help it, it’s just the way it is.

I started typing this race report on Tuesday night and the disappointment was still fresh. But now on Saturday, I’m not as discouraged/disappointed, but I DO want to address what I need to do both in training and in racing to be better consistently across the board. Not just in a sprint or Olympic, but also in a 70.3 Looking forward to Dublin, the blessing is that it’s a flat looped (3 loops) course for the run, the curse is the water will be around 53/54 degrees. But that shouldn’t matter. I want to know/learn how to be consistent mentally and physically, no matter the distance. And that’s where you come in, so please, make it so number one! (did I use that Star Trek quote correctly?).

And one last thing. You once said to me that you prefer to measure success by if we as your clients had fun during the race. I have to say, I did have fun. I enjoyed feeling the difference in strength in my legs during the bike, the swim was great because for the second year in a row, we started with dudes and I enjoy that challenge. And as much as the run tore me down, there were some pretty awesome people at the back of the pack with me. But hands down, despite the clock and having to give up time to hopping off and resetting my chain, I am most proud of and had the most fun on the bike.