A week out from my first 70.3 and I’m feeling pretty good. I’m easing back in to training (except that I have a ten miler next weekend, so that’s not really easing in), and though I wasn’t terribly sore after the race, when I run, I can tell that I put my body through something difficult.
But I have had some time to think about the race and what I learned.
First, training works. Who knew, right? But on both the swim and the bike, I was trained for more than the distance, and that was totally worth it. When you’ve been riding hilly 60+ mile rides, a less hilly 56 miles feels like nothing. A few weeks out from the race, there was official notification that the course had changed slightly and went from starting with 17 miles of relative flat to 10 miles of relative flat followed by two hills. This meant a lot of people were panicking about the course. I wasn’t worried – I knew my training was solid. I had trained for hills and was ready. (Of course, if a course goes from completely flat to hilly… well, that’s a different story.)
I learned that wearing my cooling wings is worth it. For those of you who asked, the white sleeve things I was wearing during the bike and run are Desoto Cool Wings. I wear the medium. They keep the sun off of my back and shoulders, and when wet, are supposed to keep you cool. I’m pretty sure it worked as I never felt like they were making me overheat. Plus I didn’t get roasted in the full sun.
I did, of course, wear sunscreen, but discovered after the race that on my left leg, my shorts had crept up just enough to leave a pretty line of red. I do sunscreen under the edges of my kit, but apparently I didn’t go far enough.
One huge key for me was having a plan. I knew what to eat before the race, when and how to fuel during the race, and I even had planned what water stop to hit on the bike. I ended up deviating slightly, opting to refill my bottles at the first stop rather than the second, but that didn’t throw me off terribly. It was so hot that I was drinking more than I anticipated (not a bad thing), but it meant I had to rethink my Tailwind. I ended up watering down two bottles way more than normal, which worked out okay.
I also decided that I didn’t care about trying to grab nutrition and hydration while on the bike. I was going to stop and pull over before getting what I needed. No need to stress about trying to grab stuff and saving what, 30 seconds? Not worth it at the pace I’m moving.
I do need to get different aero hydration. I use the older style Profile Design bottle and on the rattly roads, it splashed EVERYWHERE. Not an issue if it’s just water, but my poor bike is coated in Tailwind and I’m going to have to have a total bottom bracket overhaul this winter to get it cleaned out.
I tried to fuel as much on the bike as I could because I had a feeling that I wouldn’t want anything on the run. And I was right. I had 200 calories of Tailwind in my bottle, and a packet of Clif Bloks with me. The Tailwind just kept getting watered down as I refilled with cold water, so I eventually got in the 200 calories and only ate one or two of the Clif Bloks. I wasn’t nauseous, but I was hot and tired and nothing sounded good. Still, I didn’t want to risk hitting a wall either. So I grabbed a pretzel here and there, nothing big, just little things. And it seems to have worked. I finished feeling pretty good. On a normal half marathon, I might have a total of 300 calories of fuel with me and take in somewhere between 200 and 300 of those calories. But I’m not starting out totally depleted.
It’s clear that I need to pick up speed on the bike. My swim is pretty solid. I’m not first out of the water or anything, and the more I work, the more I will improve, but it was okay. On the bike however, I was getting passed left and right. Some of that is just the wave starts – I had people way faster than me passing me even though they started later. But according to the ranks, I also got passed by almost 50 people in my age group. 50 people who started with me passed me. I’m not saying I need to be a speed demon, but I need to pick that up. My overall pace was 14.74 mph, including my stops (once for water, once to pee, because I am not peeing on my bike). I’d like to get that comfortably over 15 for a hilly course.
The run… well, it is what it is. I think there, I just need to drop a few pounds. The less I’m carrying, the faster I will run. I’ve been doing well, dropped about 10 pounds by last January and kept it off until about 3 weeks before the race, when suddenly cookies became an acceptable dinner. I’ve only put on 3 or 4 pounds, which I’m hoping come off in the next month or so. But I’d like to slim down a bit so that I have less weight to haul around. We’re not talking anything drastic, but it seems ridiculous to be thinking about the weight of my actual bike when I could be dropping weight off my body instead.
In the end, my big lesson learned is just to trust my training. Putting in the work will get you to the finish line.