Ironman 70.3 Steelhead: Unorthodox Preparations Leading to Unexpected Results

 The "LiftKing Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Crew". Garrick, Allison, Dylan, Montana, Me, Dave, Maddy Ben. "Other" Billy. Photo by James Loaring.

The "LiftKing Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Crew". Garrick, Allison, Dylan, Montana, Me, Dave, Maddy Ben. "Other" Billy. Photo by James Loaring.

Shortly after the awards ceremony at Provincial Championships, myself and the road trip crew packed up and headed on our way to Benton Harbor, Michigan. This group consisted of my girlfriend Montana, as well as team mates/friends Ben, Garrick, Allison, Dylan, David, and Maddy. I had strict instructions from James (coach) to stop every 90 minutes and do some dynamic stretching, to wear compression socks for the duration of the trip, and to not do any driving myself. I decided not to go to the race site the night before the race because it got too late and sleep became the priority, so we drove straight to the hotel.

Race morning wake up call was 2:50am, to allow me to get to the race site for late packet pickup at 4:15am. It was a very different pre-race experience than I am used to. I hadn't been to the race site at all, and didn't know how far of a bike ride it would be from the parking area to the packet pickup. Despite some uncertainty, I ended up getting ready in plenty of time, and had a reasonable understanding of the transition flow. It was very cold for August (12 degrees Celsius on race morning), so I wore my wetsuit while sitting around waiting. I also wore it during the swim warmup despite it being a non-wetsuit swim for the pros. The lead up to the race sounds like a stressful time, but I was in the mindset of having nothing to lose and low expectations, so I was actually quite relaxed before the start.

 I started towards the left side, third from the left not including the guy way over there by himself or the photographer. Photo by Montana Fisher-Shotton.

I started towards the left side, third from the left not including the guy way over there by himself or the photographer. Photo by Montana Fisher-Shotton.

 Photo by Montana Fisher-Shotton

Photo by Montana Fisher-Shotton

The cannon went and off we dove into the waves of Lake Michigan. I had a pretty good start, and after 100m or so I could see the lead group was only a few meters ahead. I tried to close the gap but couldn't quite make it. There were several others right beside/behind me so I shifted my focus to drafting off of them to conserve energy for the rest of the swim. I got out of the water 71 seconds behind the leader Andrew Starykowicz, I was in 11th place. My entire support crew was cheering for me as I ran towards transition which was great to see. It also confirmed that they had in fact rolled out of bed after a late night of getting up to who knows what.

 On the front of the group, Eric Limkeman 2nd in the group, Joe Gambles in 3rd. Photo by Maddy McMillan.

On the front of the group, Eric Limkeman 2nd in the group, Joe Gambles in 3rd. Photo by Maddy McMillan.

I had a great transition, passing a couple guys before getting on the bike, then a couple more in the first minute of the bike. I worked pretty hard for the first 25 minutes or so, averaging about 303 watts in that time. I knew Joe Gambles was going to be able to ride with me, but I was hoping to create separation between myself and others who had gotten out of the water near me. This strategy worked well. By the 15 mile mark I had caught everyone except Andrew Starykowics. I looked back to see 5 others riding in our "pack", all spaced out by 10 or more meters. I then settled in to a more conservative pace, and took turns at the front. Joe Gambles and Eric Limkeman were the other 2 who took their turns, the other 3 riders were just hanging on to the group. Dave, Dylan, and Maddy were out on the bike course to watch the action. Its always nice to see some familiar faces as a brief distraction from the task at hand. In the last 10 minutes I stayed at the front and pushed a good pace (about 290 watts) to deter anyone else from trying to pass me before transition. This allowed me to get off the bike in 2nd place, over 7 minutes behind Starykowicz, with 5 others close behind.

 Late in the run, photo by Maddy Mcmillan.

Late in the run, photo by Maddy Mcmillan.

I had another strong transition, and started the run with a significant margin on the closest chaser Joe Gambles. Montana, Allison, Garrick and Ben were near the start of the run course and notified me that there was a hill at mile 1 and mile 5, this was helpful because I was going into the run with not much of an idea about what the course was like. I felt good, but ensured to hold back to avoid a blow up similar to what happened in Mont Tremblant. Joe caught me at mile 3, and I decided to let him gradually slip away, I needed to run my own race. At mile 7 or so, Matt Hanson flew past me, it was easy to let him go because his pace was absolutely ridiculous. I held the pace as it became harder and harder. The last 2 miles were really tough, but I didn't let up until 800 meters to go when the crew let me know that 4th place was in the bag. That was one of the better moments in my life, I was deep in the hurt box and it was such a relief to hear that.

Starykowicz won it, wire to wire, which was great to see after he had that terrible accident last year. Hanson went on to finish 2nd and Gambles 3rd. Kyle Buckingham ran well and finished 5th, less than a minute behind me. Upon later analysis, I realised that the initial pulse in effort on the bike allowed me to separate myself from Kyle, who swam only 4 seconds slower than me. If he had gotten into our group on the bike he likely would have finished 4th and me 5th.

I finished in 3:53:21, my best time in a 70.3 by about 3 minutes, mostly due to a 1:17:18 run which was a huge pb. The biggest positive from this race was that I stayed much stronger in the late stages of the run than I have before. All in all it was an awesome trip, and having so many supporters come along made it even more fun! Montana and I headed back to Guelph shortly after the race to get some much needed recovery.

Next up is a huge training block before Escape Des Moines and Ironman 70.3 World Championships, thanks for reading!

 Photo by kind stranger using Maddy's camera.

Photo by kind stranger using Maddy's camera.