I qualified for this race back in March at Puerto Rico 70.3. Given a recent move from LA to NYC and a busy schedule these past few months, I didn’t really have any big expectations for finish time or placing. I knew this would be a fun event – especially given the huge group of EMJ guys partaking – so was stoked just to be able to join in on the fun and toe the line with the best in the world on race day. That having been said, I wanted to go as hard as I could on the day and not just coast out there.
All said and done, the race went pretty well with the hard AF course. I had a decent swim given recent training and I rode super hard (best watts in a 70.3). I cracked on the run, which is usually my strength, but I’m not disappointed with my effort. If I’m being honest with myself, my run fitness isn’t stellar at the moment. I just haven’t put in the consistent training to run the 1:23-25 time that I’m used to hitting.
FINISH TIME 4:38:33
Swim 33:37 Bike 2:31:17 Run 1:28:08
86th M30-34 (of the 300+), 273th Amateur (2,300+ racing)
I came into this year wanting to get faster at the 70.3 distance, and I definitely made some big gains. Even still, I’m in awe at how fast the top guys go. Still have my work cut out for me.
With Ironman Cozumel next on the docket, I’m pumped to take on the full Ironman distance again. The full Ironman still terrifies me, but I’m definitely better at it in comparison to the half…
The move from LA to NYC made for an interesting end of June and month of July. I trained when possible, but didn’t really get back into a grove until August. Thankfully, I had an awesome block of training in Tucson with Endurance Corner at the end of August. Being there for a week with coach Justin Daerr and a handful of strong athletes made a huge difference in getting back in race shape.
Lots of fun with the EMJ dudes. The video below by Talbot Cox along with some photos he took pretty much sums it up. I stayed in one of the many team houses with John Kelly, Reid Foster, Jack Cartwright and John Savage. Had an awesome time with these guys. Always fun staying with teammates and well worth sleeping on a couch :)
Pre-race training was typical. 30min swim, 1hr bike, 15-20min run every day. After riding a section of the course on Lookout Mountain again, I called a local bike shop and switched my rear cassette from a 11-25 to a 11-28. This was a great decision given the need for granny gears on sections of that climb. I lucked out that a bike shop was able to sort this with ease.
Up early at 4am. Pretty standard. Went through my typical pre-race routine with some laughs courtesy of John Savage’s schedule. (John and his girlfriend Vivian flew to Richmond the day prior to the race for a wedding and returned at 2am race morning…)
Got to transition before it opened, definitely a first for me. EMJ guys are punctual. It was nice to have plenty of time to get things sorted before the 30-34 AG start at 8:22am.
I dove into the water with one of the first waves of the 30-34 AG’ers. A big section of the swim was against the current of the Tennessee River, so it was no joke. I never really found any feet, so didn’t catch much of a draft throughout. Overall, the swim was pretty uneventful. I came out in 33:31, about 3 minutes slower than normal but about what I was expecting given the current.
I started pushing it from the get go, going mostly by feel but keeping an eye on power. My goal power would be 220 watts.
Less than 15 minutes into the ride I hit the climb up Lookout Mountain. This climb is LEGIT. Definitely deserved the hype. It’s 1000 feet in just over 3 miles; average grade of over 6%. Pretty cool having a climb like this in a race. I took it fairly steady, going mostly by feel but looking down at power every so often so as not to overcook myself. That said, I wanted to ride ~250 for the climb since I’d catch a solid recovery on the descent. I felt really good climbing and sat right on 250 watts for the full 3 miles. (Cadence was right around 70 thanks to the new 11-28 cassette; would have been around 60 with the 11-25 and have felt a bit like one-legged squats.)
At the top of the climb the course continued along the ridge for another 15 miles. I held 220 watts for this section, still feeling good. Then came the descent. I cruised through this piece, only touching breaks once or twice when things got crowded. (Average speed was 39.7mph for the 4.28 miles downhill… ripping. Max was 47.5mph; was hoping to touch 50 but just a touch too crowded for that.)
After the descent, we were halfway through. The back half was pretty uneventful. Mostly flat with some rollers. Course was a bit crowded from here on. To avoid drafting, I did a mix of pushing hard and coasting to the end of the ride. Thankfully the draft marshals were on top of things and I saw LOTS of penalties being dished out.
I cruised into T2 after 2:31:17. NP was 219. Minus the wussy watts while putting my shoes on and off, power was right on 220. Best I’ve held in a 70.3. Unfortunately my VI was 1.08 – meaning that my average power was the same as Chattanooga 70.3. With all the surging on the back half and the big descent in the middle, I’m not sure if this could have been avoided. My VI is usually 1.03-05. I’m interested to hear what others had as their VI on this course. Drop me a comment below if you rode with power and have thoughts on this.
All in all, I was happy with the bike split. Shows that I’ve made some solid gains this year on the bike, even with a big chunk of time spent without my bike during the move.
I set out on the run at a steady clip. I made the decision to not look at pacing or HR and really just go by feel for the first half. I guess saying ‘go by feel’ is a bit vague – more like settle into a very uncomfortable pace, but one that I figured I could hold onto until about mile 12 (with mile 13 mostly downhill). Basically a ‘go for broke’ strategy. My run fitness isn’t what it was a few months ago (ran a 1:24:13 a slightly easier course here in May), but after hitting the first 4 miles averaging a 6:22 pace, I figured I could be near that 1:24 time.
Then came the real hills… I went pretty slowly up both the big climbs, and then just hammered the downhills. I finished the first loop (run course is two loops) averaging a 6:32 pace.
The first few miles of lap two came a good bit slower than the first go ‘round – averaging about a 6:40 pace. Then shit fell apart as I hit the climbs around miles 10 and 11. Mile splits were 7:09, 7:03, 7:09 for 10-12. From 12 on, I pulled things together a bit and got back down to 6:40 pace but it did not come easily.
Run split was 1:28:08 (6:45/mi). Final time was 4:38:33.
Based on heart rate, this was definitely the hardest I’ve pushed my body on a HIM run. Average HR was 169 and max HR was 183. Redlining. Definitely could have paced things better, but that wouldn’t have been as fun :)
There was some AWESOME cheering from the EMJ friends and family out on the course. Big ups to teammates Chris Douglas and Jordan Bailey for driving in and cheering at the crest of one of the hills. John's girlfriend Vivian was going nuts too, which was great especially given that she was operating on 3 hours of sleep.
FINAL THOUGHTS / UP NEXT
What a hard course. Good lord. Again, given where I am with my fitness right now, I’m happy with the result. Looking forward to building on this fitness coming out of the race and focusing on going fast in Cozumel. Should be rad. ‘til then…
A COUPLE MORE GEMS FROM TALBOT'S CAMERA
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