2011 Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3 Race Report

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Saturday, August 13, 2011:

Since I have two year old twins, it is often difficult for my wife to make it to my races these days. It seems that our M.O. this year is for one of us to go race while the other stays home and watches the kids. It works well for us but I wanted my kids to be at the finish line of this one. So, we made plans to stay in the Embassy Suites in Lynnwood and all go to this race.

I left on an earlier ferry from Kingston to Edmonds in my truck with the bike and all my stuff while Paula came on a later ferry with the kids (and all their stuff). We did that for two reasons: 1. It allowed the kids to get their afternoon nap in their own bed while I did packet pickup, and 2. It allowed them to sleep in to a decent hour in the morning and come to the race for the second part.

So, I hit the packet pickup and the bike drop-off on my own in the afternoon. That part went fine…it was much more organized than it was in 2009 and there was basically no line. I was through with packet-pickup in no time at all…but then comes the Ironman trickery. That WTC group is an amazing business organization…they know how to sell product. The packet-pickup process spits you out with all your essential stuff for race day right into the “Ironman Store” with the exit being at the other end. Of course, I began looking around because it was quite a spread. I ended up walking out with an event T-shirt that had everyone’s names on the back shaped into an M-dot logo (very cool design and my name is right in the middle of the dot), an event tri jersey, an M-dot 70.3 logo pint glass, an M-dot lanyard, cowbells for the girls, and two t-shirts for the girls that say “When I grow up I want to be an Ironman” (picture below). Yea…they got me.

After spending a small fortune, I dropped my bike off at the transition area and headed back to Lynnwood to the hotel. I met up with Paula and the girls and we went out to Olive Garden for dinner. The rest of the night was uneventful….off to bed.

Sunday, August 14, 2011:

My wave start time was 6:41 (5th wave to go). The transition area was open at 5 am so I planned to be there no later than 5:15am.  I got up at 4 am or so and had my normal Shakeology breakfast but I added a packet of Chocolate Generation UCAN to it just like I did for my last race. That gave me about 400 calories or so to start the day with. I also took one bottle of Generation UCAN to have about 45 minutes before race start. My plan was to have those two shakes before, two shakes on the bike, and 1 partial shake on the run. I also mixed BASE performance electrolyte salt into both of the bike shakes for extra electrolytes (just picked up BASE performance nutrition as a sponsor this week…super excited!). My water consumption was planned to be about 50 oz. on the bike (30 or so ounces in the aero bottle at the start and one refill with a 20 oz bottle from an aid station) and whatever I felt I needed from aid stations on the run.

They were offering shuttles from the high school (about 1.5 miles away from transition so you didn’t have to purchase parking passes in the lots that were closer (turns out they weren’t offering shuttles back in the afternoon…but you can always “ride your bike back” as they said in the athlete guide…yea, just what I want to do after a half ironman). No worries for me though because the wife was coming with another car.

Anyway, I caught the shuttle and was in transition and body marked in plenty of time. I got all set up, walked down to the swim out to check out the course, and then headed over to swim start.

This is the first big race that I have done where so many people that I know were doing the race with me. I often feel alone at races because I don’t seem to have the same schedule as anyone else and often train alone as well. However, a bunch of people from the West Sound Tri Club were there either supporting or racing. It was great to have the support of some familiar faces before, after, and especially during the race.

The Swim (Swim Goal: 30 minutes flat, overall goal time: Under 5:12:00):

I had my second UCAN as planned about 45 minutes before my wave start as I stood there in my wetsuit and chatted with some people from the club. I had elected to go with a tempo trainer during the race again. This time I set it at 1.05 (a little slower tempo than the shorter ½ mile swim at Seafair).

The swim start is a dock/water start. So, you basically just jump into the water right before your wave is supposed to start and tread water (or float in your wetsuit) until the horn goes off.

When it was time for my wave to go, I got up at the front of the pack. For the first 100 yds or so, I ignored the tempo trainer and pushed the pace to stay in front during the initial surge and then I settled in to match the tempo trainer. I love swimming with a tempo trainer in races now…it just gives me that extra calm because I feel like I know I am swimming my race and not letting other people’s pace and tempo alter my stroke. I loved swimming by people that were churning at a much higher tempo and swimming much slower.

The first ½ mile or so was amazingly good. There is a tow line about 6 feet under water in between all of the buoys that you can follow the whole way and never have to sight…so I stayed with that most of the way and was drafting off a guy in front of me pretty well. However, after about a half mile, we started to catch some of the slower swimmers from the waves in front of us. Here is where the tow line causes a problem…because everyone wants to use it, when you catch people in front of you it is often clumps of swimmers trying to hug that line and there is no easy way through. The guy I was drafting off of took the method of swimming right through everyone and so I followed. We bumped and nudged and lost tempo and I eventually even lost him in the crowd. It was really slowing me down.

When we got to the turnaround point, I got off the line and swam out to the side a bit so that I could swim without swimming through the middle of the crowd. That worked better for me but I had already lost some time that I knew I wouldn’t make up. The way back was better and felt amazing though.

Anyway, I came out of the water in 32:14. Not quite up to my goal time but it was workable for making my overall goal time of under 5:12:00 (to beat my previous 70.3 PR from Soma 2008).

Turns out that I came out of the water 21 out of 101 in my age group.

T1:

I went sockless again for the bike ride at this race and had a pretty decent T1.

My T1 time was a 2:02 (same as Seafair) so I am happy with that. Again, I could save some time here by having my shoes clipped into my bike already but I just haven’t gone there yet.

The Bike (Goal Bike: 2:50):

The bike used to be my favorite part of triathlon and I spent most of my training time on the bike. However, the last few years since the kids have been born and we stopped going to San Diego every year where the weather is nice all of the time, I have had a tough time getting enough bike training in.
This year, what that seems to mean is that I can hang in on the flatter and shorter races and make good time (I averaged over 23 mph at Ocean Shores and close to that at Seafair), but the longer and hillier courses really do me in. Lake Stevens is certainly hilly (see the course below) and considering that I only had three bike rides over 30 miles and none over 56 miles during my training for this race, I would say it qualifies as longer for me. So, I was a little worried about this portion of the race.


Given my training and my knowledge of the course, I felt that 3 hours on the bike (around 19 mph) was conservative and very doable but I was shooting for 2:50 or under. I knew I had the run fitness for a 1:45 if I could come off the bike with something left in the tank but I just didn’t have enough bike training to know exactly how a 2:50 effort was going to affect me (and I also didn’t have enough testing in on my nutrition plan).

Anyway, I got caught up in the adrenaline of the first lap of the two-loop bike course (which reminds me, I need to rant for a second at the end of this section) and really hammered it. I had a 21.5 mph average at the end of the first lap and I was simply amazed. However, when I hit the first hills in the second lap, I could feel the fatigue in my legs already. This was not good. I was able to hold on to come in from the bike right around my goal (2:51:37) but I was feeling the effort for sure.

My nutrition plan went pretty well on the bike. I had the Profile Design Aqua Cell aero bottle on my aero bars with the big chamber filled with water and the smaller one filled with one UCAN shake. Then I had another UCAN shake in a water bottle in my saddle cage. I drank the first shake and most of the water on the first lap, refilled the aero bottle with UCAN for the second lap and grabbed a water bottle from an aid station to refill the aero bottle with water as well. The only issue I had was that I accidentally started filling the water side with UCAN when I refilled and ended up with flavored water for a while…not a huge deal though.

RANT: OK, so I need to rant here a second. I mentioned that the bike course was a two-loop course. It is actually the same course that it was in 2009 when I did this race. However, they said they were going to change the course to 1-loop a few months ago. Someone I knew even posted a link to the new course from map my ride. So, even though they had not posted it on the event website as the official course, I took a day off of work in July and rode the new course (it was tough). Then, they did post the course as the official course a couple of weeks later and a whole bunch of people from the West Sound Triathlon Club went and rode it as well. Then, just 10 days before the event, they changed the course back citing construction closures. You can’t tell me that they didn’t know about these closures when they designed the new course…were they not working with the cities and counties at all? 10 days before the event? That is really my only complaint about this race but I had to get it out…so there you have it.

T2:

As usual, T2 was fairly uneventful but one thing of note is that I decided to go sockless again like I had in my two shorter races this year. I had not done a race this long or even a run this long without socks (I had run up to 12 miles without socks in these shoes and had only minor hot spots).

T2 time was 2:26

The Run:

I knew I had pushed it on the bike but I wasn’t sure how it would affect my run until I hit the first hill on the run. I knew at that point that 5:12 or less was probably not going to happen…the question was how bad it was going to be. If you add up my times, I was at 3:26:42 I believe when I left for the run. This meant that I had just about 1:46 to complete my run and beat my time. I knew I did not have that in my legs.

I hit the first mile marker in 8:13 feeling very fatigued and I think my brain really started messing with me here. I was telling myself that it wasn’t going to happen and that my day was over. I hate it when that happens. I mean…so what if I wasn’t going to have a PR…I had pretty much met my first two goals and was racing well.

Eventually, I did overcome the mind and decided to just have fun and not worry about the time. I walked when the legs hurt too bad and then I gathered myself and pushed on.

Some of the Tri Club members were helping at an aid station on the run (the picture to the left is me taking some water from Rich Seibert, the Tri Club’s current president) and that was definitely my favorite spot on the run. Those guys helped me pick up my pace by quite a bit every time I went through there. The nice thing about the run at Lake Stevens (or the bad thing if you don’t like loop courses) is that it is a two-loop figure eight course. So you run through the center of the figure 8 something like 5 times by the time you finish. I passed the water station with the tri club 4 times. I also passed my girls and my wife at least a couple of times and they were waiting for me at the finish.

The only other problem I had on the run besides fatigue was a hot spot on the ball of my right foot.  It started somewhere around mile 7 and got worse and worse.  By the end of the run, it was starting to become a blister.  I don’t think it was much of a factor in my run speed though.  Most of the pace was due to fatigue

I ended up finishing the run in 2:11:22 for an overall time of 5:39:41.

I would say that my running fitness was the best it has ever been this year but a triathlon is not just a running race. If you go into a race this long with poor bike fitness and expect to run well, you will likely be disappointed.

Final Thoughts:

1) I know it may seem like I was heavily disappointed with my performance at this race because I didn’t meet my goal time. However, I really didn’t feel that way for very much of the race. I had a really good time at this race and was happy with my performance given my training volume and circumstances. I learned new stuff and had a great experience.

2) I love doing races as part of a tri club. If you have one in your area, get together with them and do races where they can support you…it makes a huge difference.

3) The UCAN worked pretty well even for a half ironman distance. I did feel a little out of energy and my stomach felt a little odd at the beginning of the run. However, I am not sure how much of that was from my training and how much was from my nutrition. I think it would have worked much better if I had more closely followed the Metabolic Efficiency principles in my eating throughout the year. Overall, I only had about 300 calories in the 5-1/2 hour race…that is pretty low for me so I would say that UCAN did quite well.

Special Thanks:

Thank you to my sponsor De Soto. The wetsuit and trisuit performed flawlessly again.

I also want to thank my newest sponsor, Base Performance Nutrition. The electrolyte salt has been a great addition to my race nutrition.

Finally, I want to thank my wife for braving the race with twin two-year olds!  I loved having them there to greet me.

4 Comments

  • Heidi

    August 30, 2011

    Great to read your story, I was there too, my first 1/2 iron man. I agree about the bike course last minute change, threw me since I’d bike the original one with the Westsound group… Otherwise I had a fantastic day and the logisitics/race organizers did a great job. I was totally psyched that the group I train with (Westsound) came and cheered me on, it sooooo helped esp on the run, when I had a calf cramp and some stomach issues. My husband was home with kids and that worked out fine, they could watch online to see my splits, very cool. I had a great swim, an unexpected fast bike ride (for me) which was a blast and the run was tough but loved the looping and all the cheering. Ran the last mile or so with two other women exactly my age and we came in strong. Loved the finish, what a feeling!! Want to do it again next year, but dang one month earlier? Liked the timing this year to train up, maybe since I’m at a better base now it’s doable. hmmmmmm.
    Thanks for the story! Love the picture of one of your twins!! My youngest is 9 and she is swimming a tri relay this year in a sprint distance (with my oldest “Swim angeling” her) locally and my middle daughter is 13 and doing the whole thing, very cool!!

    • BASEtraining

      August 30, 2011

      Thanks, Heidi! Great job on finishing for you as well. Way to get those kids into triathlon young!…just make sure they have fun with it and don’t turn it into a competition too young.

  • Rose @ Eternal Recess

    February 13, 2012

    I’m registered for 2012! What was the weather like? Any tips for an out of stater? I live in Southern California and we’re coming up for the race! Thanks for the great report!

    • BASEtraining

      February 13, 2012

      Hi Rose, they moved the race to July this year so it might be a little different. Most years, it is cool in the morning and very hot on the run (not much shade on the run). Last year though it was quite cloudy and overcast so temperatures were manageable and people went fast. I would expect heat on the run though. There are no places to stay in Lake Stevens so you have to stay in Everett, Marysville, Lynwood. Have a great race! I should be there spectating and coaching a few of my athletes. I am racing the day before out in Ocean Shores.