70.3 Ironman Racine Race Report – Mixed Bag of Emotions, But More Driven Than Ever Before

I really don’t know where to start. Now that I am finally back to feeling normal after a long haul of being in need of medical attention and feeling really weird, I have had to time to think. Actually, I have reflected more than I probably need to, but my mind won’t let this race drop. This was my first 70.3 Ironman and only my third triathlon ever. I realized that I have a lot of learning to do, but this experience was a great one despite the obstacles that smacked my whole body from head to toe.

Saturday morning I was up early and packing the van. We had to take the kids to Fulton where they would be spending the weekend with their grandparents. Trying to load up my tri gear, their bikes, their bags, etc. lead us to one jam packed van. I believe this was the final time I travel with bikes without a bike rack. I will be buying a bike rack soon as we are in need of one.

We made our way to Racine around 1 pm. Check was smooth and easy. It was crazy seeing all the people. It is always amazing to see all walks of life doing these races. It is even more amazing to be around so many fit people. Not only the racers, but the family members. It really is a healthy bunch of people. We breezed through the checkout and I bought an Ironman shirt that had the names of all the athletes. I could not pass it up for my first 70.3. Afterwards we headed out to rack my bike.

A race of this size has you rack your bike the day before. The transition was huge. It was massive compared to the other two races. You had very little room for your gear. I set my bike up and was one of the few without plastic bags covering my seat and handlebars. I need to remember that for next time. We then headed down to the beach to check things out. Racine is beautiful. It is super clean and North Beach is awesome. Amanda and I talked about bringing the kids back up to this area for a weekend.

We finally took off and headed to Kenosha where our hotel was located. We ate along the lake at a restaurant called The Beachhouse. Amanda and I could have hung out there all night had I not had a race to attend to. I ate a burger and fries and we headed back to the hotel.

I had plans to run Saturday to shake out the legs, but my right knee was giving me some pretty bad pain. I had trouble even walking so I just laid in bed and called it a night. It was lights out at 8:30 as I knew I would be up at 3:30 starting my day.

3:30 I was up and had to go on a scavenger hunt to find a toaster for my waffles. After a maze walk trying to find the front door lady and going all over the place I found one. Nothing like eating in the bathroom as Amanda was still asleep.

4:30 we headed to Racine. At 5 am I set up all my gear, checked out where the swim in and bike spots were and then we walked down to the start of the race. We had a mile walk to the start as it was a point to point swim. It was a beautiful walk with the sun rising. Walking the course made me realize how long of a swim 1.2 miles really is.

Around 6:30 I headed out for a swim. The water was 69 degrees and a little chilly at first, but really it is perfect temperature. The water was clear and just amazing. I got over my initial mild panic attack feeling I always get when I first start open water swimming. I got out of the water and felt ready. It was a great feeling not being nervous before the start. I was nervous the days before, but at this point I knew I had done everything right in my training to complete this race. I felt good. I felt ready.

The race started at 7 am, but I was the 21st wave so every three minutes a wave took off. I left at 8:05 so there was about an hour or so of downtime. It was amazing watching the pros take off. They just take off like crazy at the start. It was a sight to see. Seeing Craig Alexander was amazing. He was literally two feet from us. It was so cool watching the pros set up and get ready.

SWIM: (Goal – under 40 minutes, Actual Time – 33:07 – BOO-YA!!!)My wave finally came to be. My age group was large so we were broken up into two groups. I took off on the swim and told myself to get after it. I found a nice pace and settled in with the swimmers. I actually drafted a few times and it was great to swim so effortlessly. I did not know what my time was, but I knew I was swimming a good split as I was passing many people in the two-three waves in front of me. I started off with many pink caps in front of me(my wave was pink) and as the swim continued I found myself leading the pack with about 5 others. I came out of the water feeling fantastic and made my way to my bike. Running on the sand was a little challenging, but I made it out alright. I was able to get out of transition and being my bike.

BIKE:(Goal – under 2:40, Actual Time 2:31 – BOO-YA!!!) The mount of the bike was a little hectic as I was with a bunch of people at once. The start of the bike was straight up a hill. Thank goodness I had my gears shifted high to allow easy pedaling. I got on my bike and just took off. I felt really good on the bike. I had some back spasms and cramps starting around mile 7, but I was able to maintain my riding position and not have the pain get any worse. This is pretty typical with me in terms of the back pain. I had the same issues with my first two tris. I was just cruising passing people left and right. I was passed only about 8 times on the course and they were all my age group. I never felt like I was riding harder than I was supposed to. My ride felt like I was pushing it, but not over the top. I was worried about turns as I am not very savvy with turning. It was not too much of an issue. I did almost take out a cone and one turn I took too fast and about missed the entire road, but I was able to make a miraculous save last minute and keep myself from crashing. I noticed quite a few people with flats and started to worry about getting a flat. At the one hour mark I was a little over 22 miles and still feeling fresh so my goal was to maintain that pace. My watch went out on me twice. One time it was because it was full of data so I had to delete my history while riding. Later I lost a signal as I had the watch tucked in my nutrition bag.

In terms of nutrition I drank my water bottle of water along with water from the three aid stations. This was a new element that I was worried about. Never before had I practiced taking stuff from people while riding my bike. It was a thrilling endeavor and I was just glad I did not take anybody out. The second aid station I almost took out a kid and old man handing out water as I lost a little control. Asides from the water I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a Honey Stinger waffle, and also a 22 ounces of GU ROCTANE powder mix. I thought I had it all figured out. I was getting my 200-300 calories per hour and plenty of water. I made my way back to transition feeling great. Amanda was there cheering me on. I told I was good except for my back which I knew would go away on the run. I quickly transitioned and headed out on the course.

RUN: (Goal – under 1:50, actual time 2:36 – BOO-HOO!!!)This is where my body took a turn for the worse. I started off on the run feeling fantastic. Things were going perfectly. I knew my swim was good. I knew from my watch my bike time was right where I wanted(actually ahead of schedule). I started the run and just felt strong and good. Mile 1 I ran 8:10, mile 2 at 8:06. I knew I needed to slow a bit as I wanted to be around 8:15 pace the first 7-8 miles. My plan was to then turn on the burners and get to around 8:00 or faster depending on my body.

Well, that did not happen. My body shut down majorly. Mile 3 I was at 8:42. I started to feel tired, but believed it was just a mental obstacle for me to deal with. The course was hot. It was very humid and the sun was intense. I stopped for water and ice and tried to keep going, but at this point I started to get dizzy. I walked a few tenths of a mile to regain my composure and tried to get started again. Things were not looking good. I made a goal to run .5 mile, walk a bit, run a .5 and see if I could get more nutrition at the aid stations to get my body back on track. Well, this did not work. I started to get very hot. My head(more like my brain) felt like it was just cooking. My dizziness became worse and I started to get nauseous. Finally, I had to start walking more and more. Around mile 4.5 I almost broke down in tears(call me soft) as I knew my goals were not going to be reached. I had not done something right and it was so frustrating to get this far feeling so great and in an instant have everything just shut down. I did not shed tears, but instead knew I had to go with pride and finish. I did not want to get a DNF. I had to be smart. I tried to run and I was barely able to. I wanted to get to the turnaround running for Amanda. I did not want her to see me walking. I passed the turnaround at a snail pace and had to go back out for one more loop and do the course again. That was mentally tough. It almost broke me. I have never had to dig so deep to finish something. It was beyond a mental wall. I was battling with a physical wall and had to use my mental toughness to keep moving forward. It was not that I was not mentally tough enough. I simply did not prep properly for my body to do what I wanted.

I had to walk two miles. It was super hard to walk. I have never had to walk in any race ever. I could not believe it. At one point during the walk my legs were trembling so bad I had to stop. I bent down to stretch my legs in a squat position and just sat there for a minute or two. I started to feel better and when I stood up I experienced something I never want to experience again. I stood up and lost all vision. I could see nothing but blackness. I was wavering back and forth bumping into people and for about 30 seconds or so(not real sure of the time) I was not sure where I was and what I was doing. It was a terrible feeling. I slowly got some vision back and knew I just had to do whatever I could to not pass out. At each aid station from that point on I ate GU, oranges, pop, water, and ice. With about 3 miles left I tried to run again. I was able to maintain a 10:00 mile pace for a bit and thought I would be able to hit under 2:30 for the half. I was not able to continue so I broke up the run with walking. With the last mile to go I had .6 of a mile left. I swore I would finish this last half running, but the body said no. I walked until the last .3 of a mile and slowly ran it in. I finished with a super slow jog, but I finished. I walked out of the chute and sat down by a tree. Amanda and Jeff found me and when they did a guy ushered me to the medical tent. I think I was in need of an IV, but I never got one. I was in there for about 10 minutes and decided I was good enough to go. However, I left and just wanted to sleep. I could not do anything but think about sleep. I laid down the dirt and just wanted to sleep. Amanda was there to get me back up and forced me back to the tent. Once again I just sat there. I was not an advocate for myself like I should have, but I just wanted AC and to lay down so I once again left, grabbed my gear and headed for the van. I felt like I was going to throw up, but never did.

OVERALL: I am mixed. I am proud of myself for finishing. When I look at the times I did a good race and still placed in the top 1/3 of the people. Had I met my race goal in running I would have been in the top 100 and I know I am capable of being in that group. My training can improve in certain parts. I really, truly feel that I was in the proper shape to reach my goals. Where I lacked in my training was not my fitness, but my race strategy and nutrition. This is what I need to figure out. The problem is that I don’t know where to begin. Thinking back I should have taken my Hammer Endurolyte tablets to replenish my electrolytes. I should have hit up GU sooner. I could have done this and I could have done that. The key is figuring what I really need to do. I have started the journey to seek knowledge and advice and put some new strategies to practice. What this means is some more intense brick sessions of longer bike rides followed by runs of 4-8 miles. I need to ride and run 4 miles and next time go 5 miles. I also need to practice running in the sun and heat. I train at 4:30 – 5:00 am when my schedule allows. With a few weeks left in the summer I need to get in the sun.

I am taking this week off. Well, I am going to try and take a week off, but I don’t think I can go that long. I already have the itch to get back to training. I am looking at three races where I will pick one to do. I have my sights on Rev3 Wisconsin Dells, 70.3 Ironman at Benton Harbor, or Pigman long course. Two of them are August 19th and one is August 12th. This would give me a few weeks to try out some changes to training and nutrition and find out if it works.

Thanks to everyone who supported me and all the messages. I appreciate all the support. I wish I could have lived up to my expectations, but I have to remember that this is my first race and things cannot go always go perfect. Everyone has their off days. I don’t know that it was an off day as opposed to just improper strategy and the fact that it was brutally hot. There were only a few who had crossed the line at the 5 hour mark. I am not alone in the struggles, but I am not lying when I say this was the hardest thing I have ever had to endure in my life. This beyond just mental barriers. I survived and am ready to get after it again. I am more driven than ever before.

Great job to Jessica Imm on her first place amateur finish. Jay Gates tore it up finishing in a fantastic time for his first 70.3. Jeff Paul also endured some mental battles and once again his mental toughness showed his character as he gutted it out to finish the race.

Here are a bunch of pictures from the race. Instead of inserting in this already post I just made a slideshow. The weird one of my leg is a cramp I had on the drive home. I was trying to show the muscle indenting. The rest of pretty self explanatory.

So, I GOT IT DONE! It was not easy, but anything worthwhile is never easy. Rest and recovery this week and then it is on. This week will be all about learning how to adapt and change my training and nutrition.

Lastly, thanks and much love to Amanda for supporting me and helping me out all weekend. I was so glad to have her there at the race. When I was broken down it helped me to keep pushing myself knowing she was there waiting. She was a trooper in the heat and sun waiting and watching all day. She has some amazing stories about the pros and the wives and families she talked with. What a cool perspective that you miss out on when you are racing. Without her and her support these last six months my training would not be able to happen. She is just as busy with my training with the three kids and listening to all my stories and complaints. She helped me stay strong during this race. Not sure how I would have managed without her this weekend.

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3 thoughts on “70.3 Ironman Racine Race Report – Mixed Bag of Emotions, But More Driven Than Ever Before

  1. Aaron,
    You should be proud. You exceeded your goals on the swim and the bike by a lot! The beginning of your run was awesome! So you hit a wall into the run – that’s okay – you will figure that one out and will take down the sub 5 hr finish goal. As hard as you have trained I know you wanted to get it the first time but you really need to celebrate all the things you did SO well – swim, bike, the commitment and journey of training, the first part of your run, your incredible support network – Amanda, Jeff, etc. Lastly don’t forget that you did a sub 6 hr 1/2 ironman – think about the very small percentage of the population that could have done what you did. Sometimes God puts things out there for us to help us too – you mentioned how your fire is fueled more than ever. This may drive you to a 4:45 1/2 marathon someday whereas a sub 5 hr 1/2 marathon might have caused you not to dig deeper. Rest this week! Read some books, lounge at the pool, play with your kids – give your body some time off – it needs it and you will physically benefit from the rest. Great job – we are all VERY proud of everything you have accomplished.

  2. Hooray! (Insert noisemakers and confetti!) I can understand why you are disappointed, but I am still impressed. While your splits were off, under 12 for running is still okay. Training in the heat is something I cannot do, but would certainly help you if you want to try this again! Your students will be so impressed! Hope you recuperate this week.

  3. Way to finish Aaron! You should be proud to have finished (I can understand your frustration though as well). What an inspirational story. You fought hard to get to the end. You sure killed it on the swim and bike. Sounds like tough conditions out there. I hope you can get the nutrition figured out. I have a friend that has done one 70.3 and said the nutrition was the hardest part. You’ll get it next time though!