I did it! I finished my very first 70.3!! What an amazing experience in every way. This was the 30th anniversary of the Tinman so I picked a good year to do the event. I must say there were many times when I thought that I may not make it to the starting line but I did indeed start AND finished the race.
Pre Race – For my first 70.3 the goal to me was very clear. To finish with a smile on my face and without injury. With that in mind, my race strategy was centered solely around this goal. I wasn’t too concerned about my time although I did have an idea of what I thought I could do. My very specific focus was how well I paced the bike so I could save enough for the run and how I paced my nutrion intake.
For the bike my plan was to use my power meter to set the pace. (warning this paragraph for bike geeks only. Feel free to skip if you could give a crap about power numbers) I took what I learned from reading “Racing and Training with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen and Dr. Andrew Coogan and geared my bike leg exclusively to hitting a certain wattage goal. With Garmin’s recent firmware update to the Edge 500 I now have the ability to monitor three important numbers. They are Normalized Power, Training Stress Score (TSS) and Intensity Factor. Normalized Power by definition is an estimate of the power that you could have sustained for the same physiological “cost” if your power had been perfectly constant instead of variable. Because riding a bike on varying terrain causes your watts to fluctuate up or down the NP is a good way to track it for pacing. TSS is a number that represents how hard you worked taking into account duration and intensity of the workout. Intensity Factor is a ratio of the Normalized Power to Functional Threshold Power.
Armed with my FTP number developed through testing, My TSS goal of 140 based on advise given in the Coogan book I had my RIT educated son help me do the math to come up with the intensity factor of .678 which would allow me to hit my goal of 140. The Edge 500 now displays those three numbers so I set the screen up to display those and focused on that the whole ride.
The Swim -
The 1.2 mile swim was a reverse horseshoe shape course in Raquette Pond. Before the start of the race I knew sighting would be difficult on the way in because I would be looking directly in the sun. I had worn some tinted goggles that would help with that. I wasn’t nervous about the swim at all. I knew that I could swim that distance because I had practiced it so many times in open water. I am not a strong swimmer so I positioned myself where I felt that I could stay out of trouble and not be run over or stuck behind a log jam. The swim started and I was off. There was a lot of contact for the first 100 meters. More so because I was stuck behind slower swimmers. Don’t you hate it when you make a poor choice as to where to position yourself? There was a guy in front of me who must have been doing the breast stroke because all I could see where these feet doing a big frog kick. I finally got around this guy only to bump into someone else. This was by far the most contact I had with other swimmers in a triathlon. I wasn’t panicked at all by this it was annoying more than anything else. I just wanted people out of my way and clean water to swim in. This didn’t happen until I hit the first turn buoy. When I made the turn it started to get hard to see where I was going. In fact I could hardly see at all because of the sun. I just tried to look for other swimmers to make sure I was on track. When I made it to the far turn buoy just before heading back to shore it go even harder to sight. The sun was now completely in my eyes and I had now prayer of seeing. We were to far off shore to see the beach so I had to once again try to see other swimmers around me. I finally was able to actually follow some feet at this point and did that for a good 300 meters. Then again, I encountered more frog kicks in my face so it was time to get around that person. I started to veer off course to the left and a kayaker was kind enough to yell at me to get back over. I did so and finally came in contact with the yellow buoys marking the straight line back to the beach. I knew I was back on track so I tried to pick up the pace. Finally I started to see the bottom which is a tell tale indicator that the beach is near. Not being able to see where I was going was the most difficult part of the swim. Not much I could have done differently so I was ok with how it turned out. I was out of the water in 45 minutes and 11 seconds. Looked up and saw my wife gave her the thumbs up and jogged to transition.
T1- I wasn’t in a very big hurry in transition. I figured I had a long way to go so I wasn’t going to kill myself trying to set a new PR in transition. I was more concerned with making sure I had all of my nutrition that I was going to take in on the bike. My nutrition consisted of Larabars, Cliff Z-Bars, Cliff Shot Bloks and Cliff Shot Gels. In my water bottles I had six ounces of OJ and the rest water. I also added 1 1/2 tabs of Nuun for the added electrolyte. My goal was to take on roughly 300 to 400 calories per hour.
The Bike -
Set out on the bike and immediately had my Garmin screen set to show my Normalized Power, my TSS and Intensity Factor. I wasn’t concerned with speed, cadence or time. My plan was to focus on those power numbers and take on my calories at regular intervals.
The bike leg at Tupper Lake is nothing crazy hard. It’s just an out and back with rolling hills. If you ask me it’s kind of boring. The first hill exiting town is the biggest climb of the day. I used the gears on my bike to keep my pedal stroke even as possible. Instead of attacking the hills I would shift into my small chainring and spin up. Anything else would have had me exceeding my normalized power goal. The sun was strong and so was the wind. In fact the headwind was very strong for the entire portion of the “out”. This is where having a power meter really helps. Not having a tri bike puts me at a disadvantage because I am pretty tall on my road bike. As a result the wind was really pelting me causing me to put a lot of effort into moving forward. No matter how hard I had to work to move the bike forward I just monitored my watts on the power meter and shifted into smaller gears to maintain it. Of course this caused me to slow down but I wasn’t focused on my speed. It was all about how hard I was working. Saving energy for that run was my main concern.
As I approached the turn around I could see one of my tri club friends sitting under a tree. He said a few encouraging words to me and I slowed to ask him what was wrong. He replied that he was done. I wasn’t sure what happened but I knew that it wasn’t good. I later learned that he had crashed as he was taking a hand up water bottle. He lost control of his bike and broke his collar bone. His season was done and so was his plan on competing in his first Ironman at Lake Placid this year. I felt so bad for him. Kind of put a dark cloud on the race after that. He had plenty of people helping him so I decided to keep going. I knew I had to put that out of my mind for now and go about my business of finishing the bike leg. So I reluctantly continued on without stopping to talk more with him.
Every time I passed someone on the out portion of the bike I joked that the wind was going to change directions and we weren’t going to get that tailwind on the way back. Luckily that wasn’t the case and we did indeed have a tailwind. I made the most of that and felt like my speed was improving even though my effort remained the same. Again, the power meter was my only compass and I continued to focus on that target wattage. I felt really good on the bike mainly because I kept my effort in check. I took on my calories as planned and just executed my race goal perfectly. Pulled into town and looked at my numbers. My NP was 162, my TSS was 141 and my IF was .676. My average speed turned out to be only 16.1 for a total time of 3 hrs 27 mins. Not super fast but I felt like I had plenty of legs left for the run.
T2 – So happy to be off the bike. Riding in wet tri shorts for 56 miles is not the best thing for your back side. Like T1 I wasn’t in a big hurry. I grabbed a drink, fired up my Garmin watch, put on my running shoes, grabbed my Clif Shots and headed out on the run.
The Run -
This is where I had the most reservations. I had never ran a 1/2 marathon before in fact the furthest that I had ever run in my whole life was 9 miles. Not only that I had suffered a plantar fasciitis injury last fall that kept me from running entirely for six months. I didn’t resume running consistently until April of this year. My total run training mileage prior to Tinman was only about 125 miles. Not sure what most people do but I think this was a little light.
Even though I was confident I could go the distance I really was concerned about re-injuring my foot. So my plan was to go at an easy pace and walk the aid stations. I did this exactly as planned.
I started out feeling a little sluggish on the run. It was now the hottest part of the day and I just didn’t know how this was going to go. I chatted with as many people as I could around me as this would be the best way I knew to pass the time. I met a woman from NJ who had done Ironman Arizona, a women from Boston who had done multiple Ironman’s and a woman from Syracuse who was a regular 70.3 competitor. The people you meet is one of the coolest parts of triathlon in my view. There are so many nice people who participate in this sport. So many times I have encountered positive people who I am just drawn to. I love this part just as much as I do the training and racing.
The run was slow and steady. I just kept plodding along between a 10:00 and 11:00 minute mile. Walking the aid stations and taking on water and nutrition. It got to be pretty difficult to stomach some of gels but I knew I had to keep on fueling my body to make it to the end. There was never a question of if I was going to make it. It was more of a fear of the unknown. Would I hit a wall at some point? Would I have some kind of heat stroke? Would I bonk?? As it turned out, none of those things happened. I just kept plugging along with slow steady progress. My new friend Kris from Syracuse was running my pace from about mile 8 on to the finish. She would stop and walk and I would keep going and vice versa. At one point I was on a walk break and she came up behind me and said, “c’mon Tim, let’s Git Er Done”. With that I ran in the last 1.5 miles at my fastest pace of the day.
I entered the municipal park and could see the finish. I saw my family including the dog waiting for me. I ran over to give them all a high five and they tried to hand me his leash. I though better about taking my dog with me to the finish because I thought it might be against the rules or something. I wanted to finish my first 70.3 alone. This was both my struggle and my victory. Not a time for stunts. Hit the line at 6 hours 46 minutes and 25 seconds. Words can’t describe how good it felt to finish my first 70.3.
Post Race -
My body was craving salt more than anything else. They had some pretzel sticks at the finish line and I couldn’t get enough of them. Took on some more water and walked around a bit. I felt really pretty good all things considered. My legs were a little sore but nothing terrible. Maybe I was a little too conservative on the bike. Somehow it doesn’t matter. I don’t think I would change a thing. Next time I will have a bench mark based on my own experience. I will try to improve on this result moving forward. What a fantastic race! The community came out and supported the athletes in full force. I would highly recommend this race to anyone thinking of doing it.