Please follow me as I swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 through the beautiful Finger Lakes courtesy of IM 70.3 Musselman...
IronMan 70.3 Musselman
July 11, 2021
I always said, “If I didn’t have to commute, I’d be an IronMan.” Well… I got my chance and I took it. Thanks again to everyone who tracked me, encouraged me, trained with me, advised me, or just listened to me over the last year as I prepared for my first IM 70.3. I can already tell you it won't be my last!
To summarize, I swam 1.2 miles, cycled 56 miles and ran 13.1 miles in five hours, forty-two minutes and 39 seconds.
I had three main goals - 1) finish 2) finish in less than six hours and 3) not get hurt. I was really happy with this result. If that's enough detail for you, check my pics below and thanks for getting this far. If you want a bit more detail... then read on!
Traci and I got up early Friday morning in order to start our five hour drive to the Finger Lakes.
Instead, we woke to Hurricane Elsa’s storm conditions and our basement flooded with an inch of water.
I had to rescue my bike trainer and all of my music equipment from the flood. While carrying a heavy PA speaker to safety I nearly slipped and fell on the slippery wet cement floor. Race over. Wouldn't that be crazy? Nope - fortunately I caught my balance and took things a bit slower going forward. We watched Wimbledon instead of hitting the road and waited for safer conditions while the storm passed by. The kids could check on the basement when they woke up (by noon). I had a race to do.
It was a beautiful road trip up old familiar Route 17 into western NY State. I suggest stopping at Main Street Farm in Livingston NY (right near the Roscoe Diner) for lunch. We hit it in both directions. It’s an awesome organic farm to table sandwich shop.
We stayed at Hotel Geneva on the Lake which was not quite as close as the Ramada, but it was nice enough and there were plenty of IM types running around. Honeymoon? Nope, not nearly as romantic… IronMan!
I had so much stuff packed. Two full backpacks, my wetsuit bag, and bike. I had my 52 item checklist (!) and reviewed it ten times before the race. I packed my bag, unpacked it, and re-packed it. The whole thing reminds me of the music shows I play - if I forget the extra batteries for my guitar... that's it - gig over. If I forget my nutrition - or something else critical - like my race number belt - the consequences to my performance could be significant. Speaking of nutrition… it looks like this:
I will consume all of this during the course of the race. I still lost approximately 5 pounds by the end of the race.
From left to right (black bottle of Levelen drank before the race). Hydration starts early.
Double concentrated Levelen for the run - see how red it is.
Clear Levelen for behind the bike seat - this would be thrown out after consuming.
“Jamie” bottle to fill up the front hydration bottle
Clear Levelen #2 for behind the bike seat - also a throwaway
Infinit bottle is filled with water for the bottom bike tube.
My alarm went off at 4am and everything was set. Breakfast - check. Coffee - check. Car is loaded - check. Wake Traci at 4:45am and she drives me a block from the race site as we planned the day earlier. I checked into transition and set up my "picnic” (see photos) at 5am. The sun is rising over the lake. The bikes are getting set up. Spectators (!) already lining up the transition area! Exciting. I've raced enough to be relaxed and aware. Some light conversation with my fellow athletes, but no distractions.
The weather can be neutral at best or it can really challenge you. I've raced over 30 half marathons in varying conditions, one full NY marathon (warm & humid), two North Face Endurance runs (both in downpours/mud), and countless other road races. My time at the Fairfield Half Marathon might range from 1:38 to 1:45 on the same course with the same fitness level but different weather. I can tell you, the conditions this morning were race-perfect. Low sixties and cloudy. Calm water. I run in sub-twenty degree weather. I swim in sixty degree water. The water was 70.5 degrees. This was a special morning. I have to admit my results benefitted from perfect race weather. I don't downplay this. I've been training all year for this day and having great conditions was really awesome. We heard other competitors saying the same thing.
The Swim (1.2m @ 43:56)
We could self-seed and my big decision was to swim with the 43 - 46 minute swimmers or the 46 - 50 minute swimmers. I chose the faster option and was glad I did. The water was calm and warm enough. I was able to jump in the water with other swimmers before the race started which was a great warm-up. Even just feeling the water temperature and acclimating.
OK, line up for the race. My heart rate started to rise based on my chest strap HR monitor and watch. It took about 15 minutes to get up towards the start chute and that was really exciting. They let you cross the line three at a time and you are off! Only once did I feel briefly uncomfortable early in the swim, but one breast stroke and I calmed myself. From there, it was automatic. Swimming comfortably just as I have been practicing. Following the buoys, tracking others to swim straight. A few times I felt someone’s hand brush my feet but no major issues with crowding - these guys knew how to organize a race!
When I approached the final channel, pushing me in, I was thrilled that I was sub-44 minutes on the swim. In practice, it was closer to 50 minutes for this distance. I felt great and emerged from the water jogging and ready to ride!
Those swim buoys look like they go out into infinity…
Two minutes of the 4:49 transition time was spent running from the swim exit to my bike, barefoot, while removing my wetsuit. I use Trislide around my wrists and ankles which allows the suit to slide right off. Put on socks, bike shoes, bike helmet and visor. Run to T1 exit with bike, in bike shoes, and go.
The Bike (56m @ 2:57:28)
Racing bikes is fun. At this point, you are glad to be out of the water, out of transition, and ready to ride. This was a beautiful 56 mile course on back country roads, through cornfields and around Seneca and Geneva lakes. I was prepared to pass many fast swimmers and I think I passed about 50-60 athletes over the course of the next three hours. Probably six cyclists passed me. I tried to stay comfortable and not push my pace too hard. I executed my nutrition plan: drink one Levelen nutrition bottle up front on the handlebars. Two more behind the seat and one bottle of pure water down below. One bottle per hour plus the water to wash down the salt tablets in the bento box - I’d need about four of these over three hours. I sacrificed some speed overall to be strong in the run and hopefully that would work out in my favor? Let's find out.
T2 is short and sweet. All business. Cycling shoes off, running shoes on. Same socks. Hat. Couldn’t find my sunglasses but I found them after the race.
Uh oh. Where’s the f-cking transition exit? “Hey how do I get outta here?” Oh - follow them. Ok. Next race, check out ALL exits before the race… Nearly a dumb mistake but in the end it didn’t cost me any time, just a few extra heartbeats of panic.
The Run (13.1m @ 1:56:08)
My legs felt a bit heavy at the start of the run, which is normal at this point.
I came out at 9 minute splits. This is why we practice the "brick" so much - a long bike ride followed by a shorter run. Again, the goal was to "stay within myself" and just be comfortable for the first few early miles. I was surprised by how many people were passing me early on. Was I running out of gas? Too slow? I just stayed patient. I was a fish back in water! I love running! I wasn't too worried... and I didn't need to be...
By mile 5 I found Traci and that was a boost. I knew all of you guys out there were tracking me on the app and that kept me going in the middle miles. I was taking in nutrition according to plan and no signs of muscle cramping which is big. Nutrition was one supercharged bottle of Levelen which I doubled the powder and augmented it from water at the aid stations. Now we are in unchartered territory. My training included workouts of four hours, but now we're talking six hours...
By mile 7 I was feeling strong and my splits were really solid here, dipping under 9's. I was handling the uphills and coasting the downhills. I recognized the people I was passing now - early on they passed me but I was running strong. By mile 8 (photo below) I saw Traci again and I knew I had this. Fist pump. My emotions were starting to rise as all that work I put in was going to result in a good race. I told myself... you can run 5 miles in your sleep. just five to go...
My last three miles I negative split - 8:57, 8:24, 8:02 and I was running sub seven's coming into the last 10 miles into the finish.
First my biggest thanks to Traci for putting up with my early training alarms on the weekend, hours of exercise, and her amazing FOOD which powered me through this. I couldn't have done this without my amazing wife. I love you! Oh - seeing Traci at mile 8 resulted in a really happy photo… I didn’t look that happy until I saw her...
My cousin, Jeff Gordon. My coach and mentor. A true IronMan.
Jeff and I literally have spent hours, no days… on countless phone conversations, facetimes, emails, and texts. It borders on the insane. No question was too much or too stupid.
The amount of detail in all aspects of training was incredible. Training techniques, timing, pacing, gear, fitness, stretching, nutrition, ABS, the minutia... I would NEVER have done as well for my first IM without the benefit of Jeff's FIFTEEN YEARS OF IRONMAN EDUCATION AND TRAINING to make this day a success. Priceless. We are still texting each other now as I write this that the size of my spare tire kit hanging on the back of my bike is ludicrously large (that's what you get when you shop at REI...). It could hold a cell phone and a sandwich, but godammit, it's AERO!!!
Jeff recently podium’ed (third place age group) at Ironman Eagleman and qualified for the 70.3 world championships... this guy leads from the front. Jeff (and Jamie) - thank you for the ridiculous amount of time you spent prepping me for this. I’m going to race with them in Eagleman next June. The smart money is on Jamie.
My running partner and all around life pal, David Allen. We have run every Sunday for ten years now? If it's raining... we're out there. 18 degrees with a light snow? Beautiful morning to be out on a trail. North Face Endurance run in the slop and mud. Yes. Twice. NY Marathon. Yep. All those town races... Thanks David. You keep my legs moving fast and my head screwed on straight.
My newer triathlon training pals Marc Gold and Jon Goodman. You guys get me out in sixty degree water in the Long Island Sound so that 70 degree water feels like a bathtub. I couldn’t even speak because my lips and mouth are so darn numb. Full neoprene gloves, boots, cap and wetsuit.... NOW THAT'S RACE PREP. and so much good advice. like "don't forget to put on your race bib in T2." Thanks guys. Looking forward to a lot more OWS in August and September.
My PT, Tyler Soroka, from HealthSOS in NYC. He's gotten me through the NY Marathon and countless injuries. Tyler - you got me through this, man! Thank you! See you Thursday on ZOOM! Ice and stim please.
All the gear... Cycleology Westport for putting me on a fast bike. This pearl came from Jay... "if you are gonna race bikes, you need a racing bike." heck yeah!
Jonathan Blyer at ACME Cycles in Brooklyn for a perfect bike fit. No neck pain, no problems...
We had an easy drive back. I can't wait for my next race. Rest for a few days and back to it. I'll be faster next year...