Sunday, October 9, 2016

Ironman Maryland Race Report

We're super proud of Elaina (Iowa) and Michelle (Minnesota), who competed at yesterday's Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. Speaking of Kona, Julia Slyer (New York) has already punched her ticket for 2017... here's her report from her Kona qualifying performance at Ironman Maryland. 

Congrats Julia!!

Although Maryland has been seemingly plagued by bad weather, the race itself was exceedingly well run, and with the exception of a spread out finish area / transition / parking situation, I thoroughly enjoyed my somewhat unusual race day experience in Cambridge. The volunteers were top-notch, and the race director Gerry Boyle is a step above the rest. The only reason I won’t be returning in 2017 is my newly punched ticket to the World Champs!

Swim (or not…)

My goal for the swim was to come out before 1:10, and generally not give up too much time to some of the stronger swimmers in my age group. I was a bit nervous given the chop on the Choptank River on Friday, but was told by several other athletes that the forecast for Saturday was calm. Either way, I was ready to survive the swim and hopefully not see any sea nettles. The self-seeded start was scheduled to go off at 6:45am (before sunrise), and at about 6:43 it was announced that water safety was delaying the start for 30 minutes. After finding my mom and grabbing a jacket to stay warm, we watched the lifeguards attempt to launch their kayaks and paddleboards with little success. I hopped back in line at about 7:10, ready to go, and watched the clock hit 7:15 with no announcement or movement. A minute later, the swim was cancelled and a mass exodus towards transition ensued.

I was a bit disappointed to miss out on the swim, but being my weakest discipline, the change didn’t affect my race much, and I agreed with the safety decision. The only downside was having to take off my wetsuit (which I had already peed in…). All I can say is that my mother is the ultimate Iron-supporter and luckily had a garbage bag in her backpack.

Bike (shortened to 100 miles due to major flooding)

Goals: Average Power 150-160W, HR under 152 bpm, nailing my nutrition plan

I got some really solid bike training in during my first month of school in extremely flat Buffalo, NY, so I was really looking forward to seeing what I could do on such a flat course (~2000ft elevation as opposed to ~5000ft at both IMLP and Kona). Originally, my goal had been 5:36 over the full 112 miles, or 20 mph average. I ended up sticking with my power, heart rate, and speed goals even without the swim and with a shortened bike, and it served me well.

this isn't Julia, but gives you an idea of the day!
Because there was no swim, the bike had a time trial start by number (lowest to highest). As #152, I was happy that I wouldn’t have to weave around a lot of people and risk drafting penalties, but also a bit nervous to be starting ahead of and completely separate from my competitors in my age group. (This is one of my not-so-favorite parts of Ironman’s All World Athlete program). Because I am a middle of the pack swimmer, I’m used to racing to the front, not from the front. I took it as a challenge and decided to use my confidence on the bike to my advantage. I concentrated on racing my own race and not getting caught up with the fast age group guys passing me from behind. With the exception of missing my first sports drink at aid station 1, I matched my nutrition plan exactly and felt great. The course was beautiful for the most part, but the wind was unrelenting all day. I could have pushed a bit harder, but because of the run conditions, I’m glad I held back just a bit and saved my legs for the marathon.

Time: 4:56:29

Avg. Power: 155W

Avg. HR: 150 bpm

Avg. Speed: 20.1 mph

Run (actually the full length!)
Goals: HR 150-156 bpm, 8:30 pace

After a not so stellar run at IMLP (which cost me a Kona slot), I’ve focused more on my running and nutrition to ensure I don’t bonk and have the power in my legs for a strong showing. I started out quite a bit faster than I planned to, running the first 13 miles at a 7:50 pace. The run course was totally flat, with two separate out-and-backs and aid stations every mile on the dot. I was feeling great until about mile 9, when an off-road (and extremely muddy) section took me by surprise. The change of terrain shot my legs a bit, and the second time over this section around mile 11 left me feeling a little drained. By this point, both my mom and my coach were telling me I could slow down a bit, presumably because they knew I had a large lead and didn’t want me to bonk in the second half of the marathon. Around 14 miles, I started to feel a bonk coming on, and took their advice (begrudgingly) by walking the aid stations in order to get all my nutrition in. I was still maintaining 9:00 miles and I was happy with my plan.

The fun really started around mile 18. The road heading towards transition on the run course floods every day at high tide, but due to the high amounts of rain all week, the river was higher than usual. About 100m of the road was under a few inches of water, and while most people were not so happy, I was in a good mood and also a little warm, so I decided to lay down and cool off. Unfortunately no one got a picture, but repeating this in all the large puddles made the run much more fun and bearable. Another section of the course was soon under water as well, and I decided to walk all the flooded sections to save some energy. The only real downside was the heavy shoes and blisters from wet socks. Considering the conditions, I’ve very happy with my time, although I’m curious to see how much I could have broken my 3:44 PR by if the streets were dry.

Time: 3:45:23

Pace: 8:36

Avg. HR: 165 bpm (oops!)

Takeaways – 8:46:33

Although I’m bummed that the race was cut short and would like to have seen what my times would be for the full 140.6, I’m proud of my performance at Maryland. I pushed hard and more importantly remembered why I love this sport and this distance. I also achieved all of the goals, the foremost one being to qualify for Kona again! Placing 1st in F18-24, I qualified for the Ironman World Championships for 2017 and get to return to the Big Island next October to see what more I can do! I’m looking forward to the next year of training and I can’t thank my family, friends, and coach enough for supporting me and believing in me throughout this journey!

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