70.3 IronMan Steelhead Race Report


 

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The 70.3 IronMan Steelhead was going to be the A-Race and one of the highlight of the season and indeed it was. I finished the race with a new PB in this distance, 4:28:48, about 7 minutes better than my previous PB in Vichy last year. I was 5th in my age group and I got one of the two slots for the 70.3 IronMan World Championship 2019 in Nice. Mission accomplished!

However, it was a quite complicated weekend and it was not easy to achieve this result. When I arrived to the venue on Saturday and I unboxed my bike from the Scicon travel bag, I soon realized that both shifters were not working. I inspected the bike after the flight and everything seemed right. Unfortunately, something internally in the shifters failed and they were not working anymore. I should have tested the bike as soon as I arrived to the hotel on Thursday but I didn’t… This was my first time travelling by plane with my bike and for sure I made a rookie mistake. Next time I will test the bike well in advance and I will make sure that when I travel to the venue, the bike is ready to roll. Anyway, as usual there was a bike mechanic tent at the IronMan expo and I went there to get my bike fixed. We spent literally hours trying to solve the problem but, unfortunately, there was no way to repair the shifters. The guys at the expo were amazing and super supportive. Ethan from Bike and Life started to call the shops in the area to check if someone had the shifters in stock. Unfortunately, we didn’t find them. Luckily, at the racedaywheels.com tent they were renting bikes for the race and they happened to have a Scott time trial bike in my size available. It was not exactly like my Scott Plasma Team Issue but it was pretty close. We brought the bike to Nick from K&G Bikes and he set up the new bike with my wheels, my bottle cage, my bento box and my spare parts bag. He also took the measures from my bike to set up the saddle in order to allow me to ride the bike in a position as close as possible to my own bike. We finished working on the bike at 9:30pm… Luckily in this race, same day check-in was allowed. Actually, Ethan was allowed to enter the transition zone any time and he let me enter to put my bike on the rack. I went to the hotel and I prepared my electrolyte and all the other stuff for the race. When I finished it was almost midnight and I had to wake up at 4:30am the next day… I think that I don’t have to tell you how did I sleep 🙂

Anyway, on race day I had breakfast and I went to the Jean Klock Park to leave the rest of my stuff in transition. Despite the troubles of the pre race day, everything was ready for the race. I was finally feeling relieved and I couldn’t wait to start the race. I was in my best shape of the season and I knew that I could achieve my goal even with a new bike set up in the last minute. The temperature of the water was 0.1 degree F above the limit and therefore the wetsuits were not allowed. The water was really choppy and it made a very rough swim. I did my best but it was very hard to swim fast, fighting with the waves with scarce visibility and without wetsuit. I finished the swim in 35:45 with a pace of 1:50 min/100m. It doesn’t seem a good split but still it was the 10th best time in my age group.

The transition was long and narrow but unlike other IronMan branded races, we where allowed to leave everything in one place together with the bike. There were no blue and red bags on the racks. I think that this makes the transition faster. Starting the bike segment I was feeling great. It was almost like riding my bike. I forgot about all the troubles of the day before and I focused only on my Garmin Edge to make sure that I was keeping the right pace. The bike course was very flat with only 350 meters of elevation. Most of the 90k were on a highway along the coast of lake Michigan. The roads were not in perfect conditions but definitely much better than in Vichy. In the first half of the race I was feeling great and I was keeping the average at about 285w. In the second half I started to feel less energy. I took my nutrition as planned but my low back started to hurt a little bit and I was not feeling as comfortable any more. At the end of the race my normalized power was 275w. According to my FTP my predicted normalized power for a 70.3 is 271w at the most. This means that I pushed beyond the limit… Or maybe I should test again my FTP 😉 The variability index was 1.02 which means that my pace was very steady (which is a good thing in a time trial). The average speed was also not bad at 39.6 km/h. I think that with my bike, pushing the same watts I would have reached 40 km/h on average, saving maybe a couple of minutes. We will never know. My bike split was 2:17:05, 4th split of my age group. With a bike set up the day before. Pretty amazing 🙂

At the start of the half marathon I was feeling great but I was also feeling that my quads worked a lot on the bike segment. I think that in the first 5 km my average was close to 4 min/km. Aerobically I was feeling good but I knew that my legs were not going to be able to sustain that pace until the end of the race. My quads were hurting more and more km after km. I tried to stick to Ronaldo Ferreira, a triathlete in my age group that was running at a similar pace since the beginning of the run.  We passed each other several time during the run, keeping the pace as high as possible. With 7km to go I had a feeling similar to when you hit the wall in a marathon. My legs were feeling empty and hurting quite a lot. I lost a few meters from Ronaldo and I had to make a huge mental effort to raise the pace again. I trained for this race for months and I was not going to waste minutes in the last km of the run. Pain is temporary but glory is forever. I ignored the pain coming from my legs and I started to run again as fast as possible. I think that the last gel helped me also a little bit. At the end, after this race I was going to have a week of holidays in Chicago: enough time to recover from a huge effort. I passed again Ronaldo and this time he was not able to keep my pace. I flew to the finish line closing the half marathon in 1:31:15 with an average pace of 4:21 min/km. I think that I can improve my run considerably and if I do, chances for a podium will be really high. The second place was only 5 minutes away… It’s something that I can definitely achieve for next year.

At the end it was just another race. This approach helped me to go through the troubles on Saturday and to give my best on Sunday. The people at the IronMan expo were absolutely amazing and without their help I would have not achieved this result. The big goal of the season is achieved so now I have to find a new motivation for the last month of competitions. In the 70.3 IronMan Chongquing they will give 25 slots for Kona… I’m just saying 🙂

If you like this post, remember to give it a thumbs up and if you have any questions, leave a comment below. You can follow my journey on my social accounts @alexciherean Write to you soon! Cheers!

 

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