Ironman Kansas 70.3 Race Report
With that in mind I started training for Kansas in November with only my best possible performance in mind. Training went very well and in the weeks leading up to the race I started to get an idea of what I might be able to accomplish if the stars were in alignment. Based on my Boulder 70.3 time, the progress I had made in training, and the fact that Kansas would be a flat race (ha!) at sea level, I believed I could race it in around 4:32ish. I TOTALLY underestimated the race.
As we were pulling in to Lawrence Kansas I was taken aback by the large hill we were driving up to reach our hotel room, on route to check in at Clinton State Park there also were no shortage of hills, two pretty good size ones in the park itself.
At the prerace meeting I learned that the water was too warm for a wetsuit and that this would be my first open water swim sans wetsuit... I continued to adjust my goals accordingly.
Woke up at 3 am to eat breakfast and pack and it was already 72 degrees outside... with the sun down... yikes. My start time was 7:30. Upon arrival at the course it was already hot and windy.
Looking at the way the waves were going it appeared there would be a cross current.
The gun went off and I tried staying with the lead pack but got lost in the hustle and bustle, because I was concerned about the current I found myself sighting way more often than I usually do. I kept plugging away and felt that I was doing fairly well, I did have to keep reminding myself to "keep kicking" as I didn't have a wetsuit to keep my legs afloat. I got to the turnaround and felt that I was making good time, made the turn and going back to shore seemed to go even better. I finally got to the dock and as I ripped off my goggles and swim cap I glanced down at my garmin to see that the swim had taken me 45 minutes... 10 minutes longer than anticipated.
The bike was absolutely brutal and offered no reprieve at all. I was either riding into the hot wind, getting blown all over the road by a cross-wind or, the few times when the wind was at my back, I was dying from the heat as there was now no wind to cool me off, not to mention all those "rolling" hills. I had looked at the course profile (which are rarely accurate) and saw lots of 100 foot climbs... and there were lots, but they were steeper than I had anticipated. By mile 25 my will was all but broken and I felt that I wasn't making any progress, I was wondering what possessed me to do this and why the hell I had signed up for an Ironman in September. By mile 30 my new race suit pad was really digging into my thighs and I was having trouble staying aero, at mile 45 it occurred to me that I still had to run and I wasn't too keen on that notion any more. Finally, for the last 5 miles or so, we had a tail wind, but by that time I was ready to call it a day.
I started out on the run and immediately felt flat and as if I just didn't have "it". I felt like I was going to cramp. For the first 3 miles I questioned whether or not I could do this today... my body kept telling me "NO". I kept looking at my garmin and seeing that my pace was much slower than planned which was also assaulting my will to continue until finally I hid the data and resolved to just keep running (or shuffling as the case may be). By mile four I had settled into a pace and was feeling better, now I needed some calories but could not stomach any more Gu on this hot day, my mouth was sticky and dry. Coke was my beverage of choice as I started alternating between cola and water. At mile 8 it occurred to me that I had only passed people in my age group and hadn't been passed so maybe, just maybe, I wasn't doing as poorly as I thought. I was elated when I passed the 10 mile marker... just a 5K left... the longest 5k of my life. It felt like an eternity, but the sound of the announcer kept growing closer until finally I saw the chute... home at last! 5:14:26. 17th(or 18th depending on the source) in my AG and ultimately good enough for a Vegas slot had I stuck around. While I didn't meet my goal, I did improve on my placing from my previous 70.3.
In the end this race became a character race... what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I had underestimated the course and was not giving the distance the respect it deserves. It is these type races in which we grow as athletes by winning the argument with ourselves and pressing on when all you want to do is quit.
Sometimes you eat the b'ar, sometimes the b'ar eats you, and sometimes you get chewed up and spit out a stronger person than you went in.