I knew it would be windy. I knew it would be muggy and hot. I knew there would be a lot of rule-breaking. But this half Ironman triathlon was one sonuvabitch race. My fifth 70.3 attempt, and fourth finish. Read on for the gory details, but to sum-up, Ironman Miami 70.3 was the most challenging half distance race I have ever done. Brutal. However, it was also one of the most rewarding. Great venue, fantastic volunteers, and that glorious feeling of accomplishment at the finish of a really long one. I will be back next year for sure.
So, let’s start with my current state of things. I have been in a mega rut. Since Ironman Louisville last year, I have put on 20 lbs and I have been embarrassingly inconsistent in my workouts. I get it too …doing a full IM was so all-consuming of every aspect of my life for so long that once it was over I was spent. Done. I raced several sprint triathlons this year and did well, but the regular, consistent training necessary to successfully race longer distances has not been there.
Sooooo, it is what it is and that’s alright because I am not going to beat myself up over it. That said though, I am going to snap out of it now. It’s been a year since IM Louisville, enough slacking. I do not feel good and that is the sucky part. I signed up for Miami hoping that would motivate me – which it did, to a point. I trained for it about half as much as I should have. But now that I raced it and got that feeling of finishing such a challenging race again …that is addicting. I did it and now I feel I’m back. This race did that for me.
So with that little backstory/self evaluation, now you know where I was mentally and physically coming into this race.
Getting to the venue was very easy the day before the race for the mandatory check-in. I stayed at the Holiday Inn across the street from Bayside Marketplace which is a GREAT and fun place in the evenings with live music and delicious food by the bay. This also put me just a couple blocks away from the transition area. I got checked in quickly, got my bike racked at my #400 spot, and I was good-to-go with little stress.
I was surprisingly calm that day I noticed. Cucumber calm. Wandering around IM Village searching for compression socks for my swollen ankle (long story, but it involved fire ants the day before), I couldn’t help but notice that like no one spoke English. As I later messaged a friend, “This is the Spanish-est race everrrr”. And they looked fit too. Super fit guys with super fancy bikes, just like all these races. Just this time, all Latin. But previously I would have been intimidated and gotten jitters; this time no.
Anyway, once I was all done there, I hit the CVS on the way back to the hotel to pick up water, something for breakfast the next morning (Cliff bars for the win), and tampons. Sighhhh, yes, tampons. Because I am a girl and this is the extra bit of shit we get to deal with on raceday.
Early evening, I ventured across the street to the Marketplace for dinner. The night before a long race, I usually prefer some light fish with pasta or rice, but like I said – I knew I was undertrained and was not going to be competitive, but I also knew I could finish the race. Translation: NO PRESSURE. After all, I am an IRONMAN and this race would only be half as far. So, I was chill. So chill, in fact, that my dinner was pizza and beer. Yup. And it was delicious.
Race morning! Woke up at 4am, hit snooze until 4:40am. Got up, ate my Cliff bar, drank a cup of coffee, and waited for the poop gods to smile upon me. Then I grabbed my gear and walked to transition around 5:30am. On the way, I happened by a couple crowing roosters. Random, even for Miami. But they made me smile.
I got to transition and set up my gear around my bike. Water temp was 80F, so no wetsuit. I brought my bike pump to fill the tires because I didn’t feel like having to search for one (lesson learned from Louisville). As far as my nutrition plan for the bike, I had my PhD Endurance + Battery concentrate bottle in my downtube cage (I have never lost a bottle from that cage), water in the aerobar torpedo bottle, BASE salt in my bento box, and Honey Stinger Pink Grapefruit chews (my favorite!) just in case. My plan was drink the PhD Endurance/Battery mix and consume BASE every 15 minutes just like at Louisville, then drink water throughout because HYDRATION was going to be so key. For the run, I just put two Gu vanilla gels on my race belt, but really I planned to live off the course.
Race start: Alright, this is where this race was different. For the 1.2 mile swim: First wave, pro men. Second wave, pro women. THIRD wave, women 45 AND OVER. Fourth wave, women 40-44. Then the next FIVE waves were men 30-39. See an issue here? Younger, faster men were starting just 10 minutes after us old ladies. We were going to be swum over for sure. Then also, because it was windy (forecast was ~10mph in the morning, then up to 15-20mph out on the bike), the water was all chop. No bueno.
My wave time came, the horn sounded, and we were off. Right away, the taste of the water stuck me. It was awful – it basically tasted like you would expect freaking marina water to taste in Miami. And it was so choppy – I would turn my head to take a breath and get smacked in the face with water. We were clumped up too, so I had to swim with my head a bit up so I wouldn’t get kicked in the face. After a while, this aggravated my back. This swim seemed to last for everrr – debris, chop, current, wind, seaweed, other athletes. The only way to describe it is that it was like swimming in a washing machine. Finally, I got out of the water and looked at my Garmin: 52 minutes. That is a SHIT time for me. But my Garmin says I swam 2333.5 meters, not 2000. So, my data disagrees with the course and it’s not like I was swimming all over the place soooo….
Whatever, moving on to the 56 mile bike… I had a smooth transition, then heading out, we were with the wind so I was making ~20-23mph splits for the first 20 miles or so. All was well, until we had to turnaround. OMG that wind. My speed dropped to 14mph. I worked and worked to get it back up to at least 17mph, but the wind was just so strong. So I just did the best I could to maintain some speed at least but not burn my legs right off.
This was when the pelotons came. See, drafting or riding in group packs is not allowed in USAT-sanctioned triathlon races. But those rules were flat out ignored in this race. Large – and I mean really large – groups of bikes packed together going ~20mpg (with people in AERO position, this is so not safe) went shooting by me. A lot of them. Oyyyy, I just kept right and let them go. So much machismo out there. I had never seen that in a race. I also passed a lot of people with bike issues and people looking like they were ready to pass out and needing medical attention. It felt brutal.
As time went on and the miles ticked away …30, 40 miles, I started to notice my main groin tendon on my right side – don’t know what it’s called – started to get super tight and painful. It got to the point where every couple of peddles, I would have to stick my knee out and my butt back to open that area and stretch it. It got so bad the pain started to diffuse to the backside and down my quad. Well, now I started to worry a bit because I still had to run. So I took a few miles and focused on water and BASE salt thinking maybe it was a cramp and potentially a sign that I was not hydrated adequately even though I had taken water at every aid station. This helped I think, and it eventually subsided just enough that I would work it all the way back to transition. Thankfully, I was done with the bike after 3 hours 15 minutes which I was satisfied with given the conditions of the race.
After fighting the winds on the bike, I didn’t think the 13.1 mile run could be so much worse but omg. The run at this race is a 3-loop route through and around the Bayside park. It was twisty and congested, but well supported I have to say with lots of volunteers. Leaving the transition area and starting to run, right away I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Between the heat, exhaustion, and the pain in my legs, within in a couple minutes I had to walk a bit. So I came up with a new plan that I had never done before – walk/run. I ran 4 minutes, then walked 1 minute. This let me keep about ~11 minutes/mile going, and I was FINE with that. As long as I kept going. Still even, I felt light headed coming into the first aid station. I started to look for what to take in for calories, but then I saw it. The beacon of light that I needed. The magical nectar that fueled my entire marathon at IM Louisville. COKE. I never drink soda, but Cola is effing MAGIC in the run of a long distance tri. So, with my new run/walk plan fueled with cola, I was good.
People were dropping like flies – fit fast guys who had blown by me on the bike were off to the side puking. So much puke. Most I’ve ever seen in a race. The heat was just brutal.
Then they ran out of Coke. Sighhh. At about 6 miles, I knew I needed more calories and went for one of my Gu gels, dropped it, it got stepped on, ugg, so I consumed the other. That helped for a while, but then I needed more and aid stations were running out of everything except Clif bars and Clif shot blocks which would have blown up my gut. I was at like 8 or 9 miles and I needed more calories again – and then I remembered I still had Honey Stinger Pink Grapefruit chews from the bike in my back pocket. Thank you JESUS! Those 160 calories got me through the rest for a final run time of 2 hours 23 minutes.
Funny side note, I have never had to stop during a race for a train to go by, but we did here. On my last loop, sure enough there was a train. At least the race planned for this and had timing mats on either side of the tracks. We were told that our times would be adjusted to compensate. I’m going on faith that they were.
Final time: 6 hours, 38 minutes.
That finish was one of the sweetest ever. I have had tough races – HITS Ocala half comes to mind because of the cold – but Miami takes it I think. Which makes the finish all the better. I was proud of myself during the race because I was able to use what I learned in all that training for Louisville to make smart adjustments that saved me and got me to the end. 6:38 may be my longest half IM time ever, but this was freaking HARD and I did it.
So …Eff that washing machine swim. Eff that wind on the bike. Eff the heat on that run. But I will do it again next year.
Ironman Miami 70.3 done. 6:40-ish – haven’t gotten my official time yet. Most brutal half Ironman I have ever done, so I’m extra proud of this… And now to tear into some shrimp scampi and a basket of bread.👍 . . #foodie #blogger #momblogger #feedfeed #instalike #halfmarathon #health #ironman #running #fitmom #fitfoodie #florida #tri #triathlon #foodlover #swimbikerun #miami #eats #foodfeed
Thank you Miami and all the AWESOME volunteers! They were fantastic.