Thursday, June 16, 2016

Eagleman 70.3 Race Report - Cassie Whittington

Cassie Whittington (Ohio) just crushed Eagleman 70.3. Here's her report!

This weekend I participated in my first Ironman branded 70.3 race, Eagleman in Cambridge, Maryland. Eagleman was such a great experience, not only because I had a good race, but because I got to finally meet some of my Triple Threat teammates. The day before the race we hung out and had many laughs, and I think due to this, I went into race morning very relaxed.

We headed to the race transition at 5 am and Rob’s car said it was 79 degrees. I made sure to ask him whether that was actually right...imagine my disappointment when he stated it was.

We got to the transition with plenty of time to spare, so no nerves there, just conversation with some others around me who were all being super supportive (except one girl who seemed SUPER business!) My swim start wasn’t until 7:48 so I had over an hour after transition closed to stand around and get nervous about the rising temperatures and wind speed. I was told it was already 85 degrees when we jumped in the water…such joy.

The swim was super crowded. I don’t understand why you want faster competitors starting later, as it means we have to pass everyone, and I could tell this on the swim. It was a little rough, with the wind and just the volume of people, so I swallowed more than one mouthful of salt water…my first experience racing in salt water not so pleasant. I kept calm as I was constantly getting kicked. I swam easy as I always try to do, using the swim as a warm-up to the race and never a race in itself.

I was a little dizzy taking my wetsuit off, so transition was a little slow but I got out on the bike and felt great. I tapered harder for this race than I usually do, and I could tell my legs felt rested. As soon as I got on the bike, I was faced with a horrible headwind. I’m not sure we ever got the tailwind, as the whole ride felt like a headwind to me. In the past I have had hamstring cramping, and the whole bike ride felt like they could cramp up at any second. I stood up a few times to stretch my legs out, since the course is dead flat with no change in body position, but my legs would cramp a little, so I just kept drinking water and keeping with my nutrition strategy. I drank more water on this ride than I ever have. The wind and the heat were wearing me out. I stuck to my nutrition plan of a bar every 30 minutes followed by a gel and Gatorade on each hour. I made sure to grab water to sip and then pour on myself every aid station. With the strong wind, I just tucked down and grinded. I tried to ease up on the last 10 miles of the ride since my legs were a little crampy, and I didn’t want to set myself up for pain on the run.

I had a pretty decent transition, but I was super careful putting on my running shoes, with fears of a hamstring cramp by bending down. Luckily, all was okay and my legs felt good as I went out on the run. I could tell that I was going to have to run slower than I wanted, because running faster would instantly cramp up my calves or hamstrings or arms (yes my arms, I apparently hold onto my aero bars for dear life, so they are exhausted when I get off the bike). So I went at a nice pace, looked at my watch at the 3 mile marker and was completely defeated when my mile split was 8:44, so much for that sub 8 pace. I didn’t freak out though, as I knew I needed to re-set my goals with the 90 plus degree weather. The run course is HOT with virtually no shade. The way out was hard, but the way back was brutal as the sun just beat down on your body. I grabbed water, coke, red bull, or chomps at each aid station…whatever I felt my body needed. I walked at every single aid station to dump ice down my suit, which promptly melted before I hit the next station. I began skipping the cups of ice they had laid out and going straight to the tubs where the ice was stored, and took huge chunks of ice instead of individual cubes. It was great, until one huge chunk slid down to my bottom and I probably looked like I was carrying a load in my pants…but I didn’t care, it felt so good.

After I got to mile 10 I knew I was in the clear so I picked up the pace, still not able to go full speed without the hamstring whispering to me to slow down, but a little faster. The volunteers dumped gallons of ice water over you as you finished, amazing!

I had goals of a faster time, but I’m happy with the 5:06 considering the conditions. I’m excited to see how much faster I can get on my new Argon bike coming in this week!!! The support from teammates and their families was so amazing, making the race experience so much better. After I finished, Lauren Kucharski let me know I got fourth, so I knew I had a chance to go to Worlds…which was the goal for me. After the awards were handed out, we all waited patiently for them to announce the slots to Worlds and I was VERY excited when I learned I earned one. I had no doubt I was going to accept it, who wouldn’t want to race in Australia?!? I was glad I had my teammate Mark’s credit card so that I could pay the entry fee (which you have to do immediately!)– who carries their credit card to a race?!? And another reason it was so great to have teammates around.

So now I am excited about World’s. I take great pride in just getting there…as I did every swim, bike, run and lifting session all by myself – coaching myself and motivating myself. I’ll first have Ohio 70.3 to race only two weeks prior to World’s, so that will be a challenge to figure out. But this week is about rest, pizza, drinking adult beverages, donuts, and no stress about racing!!

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