It’s the Ironman Maryland 2017 Race Report! Better late than never, yeah? Even though it didn’t go perfectly, I’m so pleased with my first Ironman experience and I really had the best experience. Can’t say enough good things about the organization of this race and the volunteers. Second to none and I was so happy to have this be my first 140.6.
After a few years of bad weather, I think the organizers and athletes alike were excited to wake up to the most beautiful morning. It was to be a bit hotter than I certainly wanted (got up to about 87-88 degrees F), but training in DC all summer, I was prepared for the heat, humidity, and nutrition/hydration requirements that come with it.
The swim start was rolling, where you were supposed to seed yourself by your estimated finish time. Ok, people suck at this. I don’t understand why, as a faster swimmer, you would want to seed yourself with people that are going to swim over you, but people do it all.the.time. And your cutoff for the race started when you started–so there was no advantage to seeding yourself with faster swimmers. I started probably in the first 150 people, and was swimming past (and hopefully not over) people the entire time. I ended up swimming so far to the outside because it was the only clear water I could get. Lesson learned. It got even worse on the second loop where I was catching up with swimmers on their first loop. But that’s part of the sport–gotta deal with it.
There was a timing ‘mat’ overhead and strung between two buoys half way through the course. This led to a huge bottleneck. I somehow happened to be just able to squeeze in with a bunch of men who I swore were trying to race me…but a lot of people had issues going thru this area. There was definitely some current – but because it was 2 loops, I don’t feel as if you got a huge advantage from going with the current or disadvantage going against. The only place I noticed it was the final turn coming out of the water where you were definitely pushed hard out into the river.
Overall, I was really pleased with my swim considering the ridiculously large extra distance my Garmin suggested I swam (and I would concur, considering how I swam really wide on loop 2). The swim course is two counter-clockwise loops, which for me was perfect because I breathe to my left so I didn’t have to sight quite as much. The sun was coming up during lap 2, so there were many times when I couldn’t see the next buoy. Fortunately, I swim a lot straighter these days! I was so glad my coach had made me do a few weeks of multiple 4,000 yard or meter swims and I also got in an open water swim prior to the race. That gave me a lot of confidence and I was able to relax and just swim, coming out of the water not at all out of breath and ready to start the bike.
So, wetsuits–I have the Synergy Endorphin wetsuit, which is the cheapest non-entry level wetsuit that you can buy. It tests really, really well in the water and I love swimming in it. It is a tad big for me, as I’m right between sizes, but I’ve worn it for two seasons and have grown to adore it. I’ve never been in a more expensive wetsuit, but for all of you just starting out or looking to acquire a wetsuit–it really is possible to not spend $800 on a wetsuit and still have a good wetsuit. Would I be faster in a different wetsuit? Maybe, but my bike and run have so much catching up to do to my swim that its certainly not worth the investment (insert rolling on the ground laughing…while crying…face here).
OH, and the jellyfish. Yes, they were everywhere. Yes, they sting. What do you do? Put on vaseline/trislide and just swim thru them. Everyone else is in the same boat. No, not ideal. But what open water swim is ideal?
Time: 1:10 for 2.4 miles (1:38/100y) / Garmin Time: 1:10 for 2.6 miles (1:32/100y)
Oh, the bike. I’ve struggled on the bike. It’s the newest sport to me – I bought my first bike around Christmas in 2015. While my training went as planned, and I got some great 100 mile rides in, I’m just not that fast. And as a good swimmer, I’m used to being passed pretty much non-stop on the bike. Not to my surprise, I was passed by people for the entire first lap. A lot of people were really pumping and breathing hard around miles 20-60, which I was warned I would see, but still was shocked to see…I mean, you have an entire marathon in front of you!
The road is mostly very smooth and in good condition–I only saw two flats the entire way. The course is pancake flat, and I had pre-ridden it so knew exactly what to expect. Almost. The winds actually were the opposite direction of when I rode the course in practice–really strong on the way out, with crosswinds most of the way back. There may have been some tailwind, but it wasn’t particularly strong or noticeable! I felt really good just going along, riding my own race…and no more tired at mile 90 than at mile 50 or mile 30, which was really exciting (thanks, coach!). I also got a great surprise to see my husband and my mom at the halfway mark–I didn’t know they were going to come out to the bike course, so it was really nice to see them for a few seconds.
I successfully swapped water bottles every other aid station, and my nutrition was what I had planned (hard food for the first lap, liquid food, gels, and honey stingers for the second lap). I stopped once at the half way point to quickly run to the bathroom. Around mile 90, I started catching up to groups and groups of people who had flown past me many miles earlier, and was able to pass people pretty much the last 20 miles as they faded out. My legs never got very tired, and thanks to my very comfortable Cobb seat (thanks Sportfit Lab), I never wanted “off” the bike. In fact, in those last 20 miles I felt like I finally learned how to bike. Considering that my 70.3 was around 18.6 mph, I was pretty thrilled with my pace and more thrilled with how great I felt particularly given the really strong headwind on parts of the course.
Time: 6:29 for 112 miles (~17.8mph)
I know there was a lot of grumbling that Ironman didn’t have bike catchers for this race, but having never had a bike catcher before – and having to run past my bike rack to get to transition anyway – I didn’t think it was any big deal to have to rack your own bike. What was a fun experience, though, was the amazing volunteers in the changing tent who helped you change, get water, put on sunscreen, etc. Um, so great. I didn’t rush through transitions but both were about 5 minutes, which included getting some fuel and water down as well as changing – putting on my aero top for the bike and switching tops for the run. A lot of people did do full changes, but that just seems exhausting to me and my kit was so comfortable I figured it wasn’t worth the trouble or time. Also included bathroom stops!
I was so happy when I came off the bike – and a bit sad because the end of the bike went so well and I knew the run was going to be where I felt great or…not. I hit my hydration exactly on point (about 1 bottle/hour), and all my nutrition was down the hatch. It was also nice to see people cheering again!!
Next up, Part 2: The Run.