Friday, June 27, 2014

2014 Ironman Syracuse 70.3 Race Report

Race Date: June 22, 2014

Race Details:

1.9K Swim
90K Bike
21.1K Run

I vowed after last years race, there was no way I'd be back to do this race, due to the crazy run and the gong show that was trying to leave the race site.  However, when WTC decided to hold the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant, CANADA, I decided I needed to find a race to do to get into this!!

Many people did Muskoka last year, but that didn't work for me since I was already doing the 2013 70.3 World Champs in Las Vegas the same weekend.   As  result, I decided to give Syracuse another shot, hoping that they would have figured out how to resolve many of the athlete complaints from 2013.   In the end, they did just that, and this race was a HUGE improvement over 2012, mostly in terms of weather, but the parking situation was also very easy this year.

I was able to recruit a buddy from Barrie to do the race with me as well, so at least I didn't have to make the trip on my own.   In the end, there were three of us who all went to Syracuse.   Myself, Carlos Vilchez from Barrie and Graham Dunn, from Kitchener, who is also on the Health & Performance team I am on.

Last year I did this race under the coaching guidance of Wolfgang Guembel, but for 2014, I am back to just doing things on my own.   I learned some good stuff from him, but I felt that I could easily do this myself again this year, incorporating much of what I learned from him into my own training.

I've been having a good year so far, setting various PB's here and there, so I was again optimistic that I could have an even better race in Syracuse this year compared to last year.   In 2013, it was hot as sh*t for the race which hurt many people's overall times.   This year the weather was looking just perfect, so I knew that was going to help too.   Race day presented sunny skies, light winds and warm, but very little humidity.

Onto the race.   I was way back in wave 16, so I started at 8:10am, a full hour and 10 minutes after the pros went off at 7am.   This sort of sucked, but also meant I'd have lots of company out on the course, and I sure did!

I was in the first of two M40-44 waves and at 8:10, the horn sounded and it was game on!   I swam pretty hard for the first 200-300m to try to get away from the main chaos that is the swim start and also to see who at that point was also going to be still with me.   My goal was then to find some feet and just let this person pull me around the race course.

This pretty much worked to a T, as I found a guy just a bit up ahead of me, so I put in a short effort and snuck right in behind him.   I was actually quite surprised how little traffic we seemed to have to swim through, despite there being hundreds and hundreds of other swimmers still out in the water from waves that started ahead of us.   I just focused on keeping the bubbles from his feet right in front of me.

At times, I thought maybe he wasn't taking the most perfect lines, but the effort was very comfortable throughout the rest of the race, so I just stayed with him and let him dictate what my swim time was going to be.

It didn't take long and the swim exit was just ahead.   When I stood up, my Garmin read low 30 something, which wasn't too bad I thought, and actually a bit faster than last year so I was pleased given I felt like I hardly did any work at all and felt great!

I quickly got my wetsuit off my torso and immediately ran to a wetsuit stripper to do the rest.   Unfortunately, I only got one instead of two, and she struggled a bit with it on my feet, but it was only a few second delay, no big deal.

My official swim time came in at 30:58 to the mat, which ended up being 21st in my AG out of 249 athletes, so off to a good start.

The run to T1 is a bit long, but given I didn't have to deal with my wetsuit, I was able to quickly get my bike stuff on, grab my bike and get going.   T1 took 2:28, which was pretty average given the size of the transition zone and that it was all on bumpy grass and that I had such a long way to run with my bike.

The bike course has a long grinding uphill in the first 18.5K, followed by a few fast descents and a bunch of other sharp climbs.   Overall, the last 60K is net downhill, which partially offsets the much slower avg. speed from the start of the race.

Nutrition wise, I stuck with my Infinite approach.   A normal concentrate in my PD aerobar bottle up front and a more concentrated solution in a bottle behind my seat.   I then took water at pretty much every aid station.   All went well.

Power wise, I was looking to go about 260-265 avg. for the race which was higher than last year, but I think I'm just a bit stronger so I thought I'd go for it if I wanted to get a podium/Worlds spot this year.

Overall, the ride could best be described as "On Your Left".   I bet I said it a hundred times, as I likely passed close to 1500 athletes who started in waves ahead of me.   The course was pretty busy with traffic from start to finish.

The first hour of the race my avg. power clocked in at 274 watts, which was a bit high I thought, but it did include the long uphill and I was feeling pretty good.

The second hour of the race came in at 263 watts, as I was able to get into a bit more of a consistent rhythm.   I was still feeling pretty good, so I continued to push on.

All was going really well until we almost got back to the race site.  There was about a 2M no pass zone, and unfortunately, I got stuck behind a female athlete who was just puttering along.   The speed went from about 42kph to about 28kph and the power in this hour segment was dropping off like a rock as I was literately coasting along.   Near the end of the no pass zone, I looked back and there was a pack of about 25 guys all shaking their head and getting frustrated.  Eventually it ended, and I pushed the pace back to the transition zone.

All said and done, I biked 2:24:46 at an average power of 263 watts, normalized power of 270 watts and an average speed of just over 37kph.   This was a very nice improvement over last year in terms of power and time (about 20 watts higher and almost 8 minutes faster).   I had the 4th fastest bike split in my AG, which actually moved me up to 4th overall in my AG starting the run.

T2 went pretty well and I was out in 1:15, only a few seconds slower than the top guys in my AG.

In order to fix the parking lot exit problem, the run course changed slightly this year.  We now had to run around the outside of the grass field before climbing a hill and getting onto Apulia Rd.   The Syracuse run course is notoriously hard, and although this change wasn't hugely significant, there's no denying that it made the course a bit harder than it already was.   It added more running on uneven bumpy grass and another fairly challenging quad burning hill climb to the already two stupid hard climbs on the course which we have to do twice.   Heck, even Jordan Rapp, multiple Ironman Champion described the Syracuse run course as "Absurd" - proof, see here.   How local Cdn kid Lionel Sanders runs a 1:09 half there boggles my mind.  It was such an awesome run, he even got his own thread on Slowtwitch.

By the time I got out on the course, most of the top pros were done their race (depressing for sure), but there were tonnes and tonnes of people out running.  The section of road on Apulia was a bit congested at times, but overall I had no issues.

When I hit the first hill, I ran about half way up before I slowed down and powerwalked for about 10m.   I did this 2 or 3 times on each hill.   I kinda of expected this, so I didn't let it discourage me.   I just find it lets the heart rate come down a bit and breaks the hill into tiny little sections.

Once at the top of the last hill, it was time to hammer back to the finish line/turn around point to repeat everything I just did all over again.   The run back went well, except for the downhill running that crushed the quads.

I don't think anyone in my AG passed me on the first lap, but not too long into the start of the second lap a guy in my AG did go flying by.   He was moving really well, so I just let him go and did my thing, trying to keep a steady pace throughout and only walk for a short amount of time on the hills.

Eventually I made my way to the top of the last hill and the turn around point, and it was mostly all downhill back to the finish line.   I was starting to feel decently tired, but the 2K "flattish" stretch along Apulia allowed me to open things up a bit.

Just before starting the final climb on Apulia to the parking lot entrance I spotted Carlos, who started 25 minutes earlier than I did.   I had seen him at various times on the run course, and was slowly gaining on him, but I was unsure if I would catch him before the finish line.

As we made our way around the parking lot section, I caught him and we ran together for a bit before I pulled away and kicked it up a bit for the last 500m or so into the finish line.

In the end I ran 1:33:31 for the run.   Not great, but not terrible either.   It was a pretty steady and consistent effort that was about 8 minutes faster than the prior year and 13th fastest in my AG.   I did lose one spot and finished 5th in my AG, which is the same spot I finished last year.   My total time was 4:32:56 which was about 18 minutes faster overall than the prior year.

Garmin Run File

Strava Run File

2014 Syracuse 70.3 Overall Results

There were 8 allocated Mont Tremblant World Championship spots in the M40-44 AG and I did take one of them.   This means I'm heading back to Tremblant in September to race.   Ideally, I want to put forth a faster time than I did when I went 4:25.   That's the goal anyway!!

So overall, I was pleased with the effort on the day, and after waiting around for a few hours to get cleaned up and our stuff out of transition, we eventually headed out and were pleasantly surprised to be able to leave the parking lot in about 2 minutes!  Much much faster than last year.

Same as last year, we headed directly to the Dinosaur BBQ for mandatory refueling for the long trip home back to Canada.

Celebratory post race dinner at the Dino BBQ

Next up for me will likely be the Multisport Belwood triathlon, before beginning some serious Ironman training leading up to both the 70.3 and Ironman World Championships this fall!

1 comment:

  1. Great photos and what fantastic results. Good luck with future races!