Eagleman 70.3 was my first "A" race of the year meaning a full one week taper leading up to the race and racing as hard as I could no matter what. This race is probably one of the most popular Half Ironman 70.3 races on the East Coast due to the talent it attracts. The race is also one of a handful where you can earn qualifying slots to both the Half Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas and the Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
This would be my fourth Half Ironman race but only the second Half Ironman 70.3 race where the swim was not cancelled. Between not swimming 1.2 miles in over a year, the hot temperatures, and competing with some of the fastest triathletes in the country (including Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander), Eagleman was going to be a memorable experience.
Most of the discussion for Eagleman leading up to the race was whether or not the race would be wetsuit legal due to the warm weather. The cut-off is 76.1 degrees. Any higher and no wet suit is allowed. Simple enough but from a race strategy perspective, having to wear the wetsuit in relatively warm water combined with the already high air temperature could pose overheating issues that could easily derail someone's race day. On the flipside, there is a clear advantage having the wetsuit and the buoyancy it offers, especially if everyone else is wearing a wetsuit. My compromise was to wear a wetsuit that didn't have sleeves. This is the same one I wore at my first triathlon race nearly 5 years ago and haven't worn since. Thankfully when I checked, it still fit and was still in good shape. The swim was a loop in Choptank River (it really is called that). I swam it before for the Chesapeakeman Aqua Velo two years ago and the swimming conditions definitely matched the name.
This time around, the waters were relatively calm so it wasn't that rough of a swim. I was able to get a warm up swim in before my wave kicked off at 7:50am or so and since it was an in-water start, I practiced getting my breathing rhythm going by putting my face in the water to breath out and turning to my side to take a breath at the same rate as what I would be doing during the swim. The swim itself was nothing crazy. After the initial craziness of the start, I settled into a good, comfortable rhythm. I could probably use some work on my sighting but there wasn't any points during the swim where I thought I was really swimming away from the course. As you can see from the GPS (from my Garmin) above, I didn't have the straightest swim but it wasn't horrible either. A few observations:
- I wish the marker buoys were closer together
- The color of the lifeguard kayaks and the buoys were both yellow which did make it a little harder to sight from far away
- The color of our swim caps (Day Glow Orange) and the turning buoys were the same color, also making it harder to sight from far away
- I made the right decision going with a sleeveless wetsuit. My exposed arms pulling the water kept me from overheating and it was also a lot less constricting than wearing a normal wetsuit. I did get a rub burn under my right arm pit but that may have been due to improper fit
I got out of the water and clocked 36:08. Seemed about right to me (slightly better than average) and actually a PR from my only other 70.3 swim.
Garmin File: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/187822321
I really need to improve my transition times as this is easy time to make up. I probably took a few extra minutes putting on socks/arm sleeves but over 5-minutes is way slow. I also ate a banana in transition which I should have just done at the start of the bike.
My bike leg at the New Orleans 70.3 was nearly a disaster with losing water bottles and getting into a crash within the first 5 miles. I made every attempt to avoid all of that and have a "clean" bike ride. For Eagleman, I almost did. I re-did my rear hydration set-up to better hold the water bottle and also decided to put my extra nutrition flask in my back pocket rather than having it velcro'd to my base bar. I'm happy to say I didn't lose any nutrition this time or have to make extra stops to use the course nutrition which saved me time. I was also more aware of the road for Eagleman to avoid hitting seams/cracks/bumps in the road that could cause a crash. Luckily, the Eagleman course was on roads that were in pretty good condition so that wasn't as much of an issue. Alongside the high heat and choppy swim, Eagleman is also well known for a very windy bike course. I don't know whether or not it was windy, but I didn't really have any issues with it during the bike. The goal was to average around 230 watts for the entire bike to pace myself for the run. Early part of the bike went well as I passed a number of people. Around Mile 18 or so, I started to feel like having to take a piss. This turned into "I really have to take a piss" around Mile 20. I hated that I had to take a piss while riding in a good rhythm/fast speed and thought about just pissing while biking but I mentally could not do it. I saw a Porto-Potty around Mile 22 or so and did my business there. The rest of the bike went to plan until about 12 or so miles left. I had been baking in the sun for about two hours and the hot/heavy aero helmet was starting to wear me down a bit (frying my head). I started to have trouble focusing and at one point, realized I had drifted over the middle yellow line which is a No-No. Unfortunately when it happened, a Ref on a motorcycle was right behind me. The Ref pulled up next to me and gave me a Yellow Card (penalty) for crossing over the line which meant I had to check-in to the Penalty Tent to give my name/bib number. There are three penalty tents on the bike course and I had already passed the first two so I had to do the check-in at the bike finish. The bike course overlapped a piece of the run course and as I biked in, I noticed how miserable the runners looked with the heat and how the run course was on an open road with no shade. Preview of things to come! Despite the pee break/penalty, I PR'd the bike split and finished under 2:30 which was a goal of mine.
Garmin File: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/187822344
Simply put, T2 was a disaster. Going from bike to run should be relatively quick since you are just racking your bike and changing shoes. My T2 wasn't so straightforward. The heat must have really affected me more than I thought because when I entered transition, I thought my number was 1598 for some reason. I got to the rack area for 1598 and couldn't find my name which confused the hell out of me. I then remembered that my number was actually 1498 and ran back to the correct rack. I threw on my running shoes, hat and glasses and ran over to a volunteer to ask where the Penalty Tent was so I could check-in and not be DQ'd. The volunteer had no clue what I was talking about. Actually, none of the volunteers knew anything about the Penalty Tent or where it was. After about 3-4 minutes of running around the transition area, I started running out onto the run course. Right before the timing mat for the start of the run, I asked a spectator if they knew where the Penalty Tent was and the person actually did know. The Penalty Tent was all the way back at the Bike Finish. I high tailed it back through transition and back onto the Bike Course where the Penalty Tent was and checked-in. All said and done, I probably lost 7-minutes on the transition due to all of this.
By the time I got onto the run course, it was like watching a death march across a desert. I think at this point the temperatures were creeping toward mid-90's and there was almost no shade during the run. I heard after the race that over 100 people dropped out of the race. It was also reported that the day was the hottest it has been since the previous August. The first mile was a blur and probably fueled by the adrenaline of starting the run since I did it in 8:18 which wasn't too bad. Things immediately tanked pretty quickly as I realized how overheated I was in addition to exertion from the swim and bike. I started to walk and had thoughts of just walking the entire run, reasoning that it was really hot and it was good enough to get this far. The more I walked, the more I felt like my body was starting to quit on me. While I was making up my mind about the race, I was doing a pseudo-run/walk from aid station to aid station. Around Mile 4, I got the idea to start stuffing ice into my hat and my arm sleeves which seemed to help cool me down. I kept this up at each Aid Station (approx every mile or so). As my body started to cool down, I started to get back into a rhythm and my strength started to return. Other than some prolonged stops at the aid station to get ice, my run progressively got faster all the way to the finish where I was able to kick it in, finishing the last mile at a 7:40min/mile pace.
Although I PR'd in both the swim/bike legs, I'm easily most proud of the run. Although it wasn't my fastest 70.3 half marathon leg, it was one where I fought from start to finish under less than ideal conditions. In all my other 70.3's, I ended up walking a good bit on the last 5 miles or so. I'm really happy I didn't throw the towl in on the run and kept on going. As opposed to other races where the I faded at the end, in this race, I got stronger as the run went on. The main difference was I was able to understand my body, make adjustments, and keep on racing. My average for the first 6.6 miles was 9:16 min/mile pace whereby the last 6.6 miles was 8:07 min/mile pace. In hindsight, it makes me wonder how I would have done for the whole run had the heat not been an issue.
Garmin File: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/187822358
The goal coming in was to break 5:00 hours and make progress toward someday getting fast enough to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships. Based upon this year's qualifiers, I need to get my time down to 4:20 for the 30-34 Age Group to qualify. Good news is I have three more years in this age group to build speed/experience and make a run at it when I'm 34. Although I didn't hit my goal time, I can't be entirely upset since this was close to a 45-minute PR from my best legit 70.3 time (the two Half Ironman races where the swim was cancelled don't count in my book). All things considered, I had a fantastic race and who knows what could have been if the heat wasn't such a factor.
Eagleman was the last big race before settling into an 8-week Peak Training Phase to get ready for Ironman Mont Tremblant (full Ironman) in August. I think I am where I should be at this point in the season and as long as I get through the Peak Phase and nailing the weekend long distance workouts, Ironman Mt. Tremblant should be a positive finale to this year's triathlon racing season.
I have to give a shout out to my wife Carly for allowing me to combine our first anniversary wedding weekend with this race. I couldn't ask for better fan support. Also, special thanks to the Pappas' who came down to cheer and took some great race pics. I loved seeing the sign on the course!
395 out of 1973 Overall
54 out of 161 in AG