Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ironman Syracuse 70.3- The Run

I had planned on publishing this post much earlier. I really wanted to wait until the "Official" results were up so that I could post some real data. Alas, I'm not sure the official data will ever be posted. I just assumed that when you go to the Results Page, click on the "Official Results" tab, there might actually be something to look at or a document waiting for you to download. Nope. Either that, or I'm not looking in the right place. If anyone knows of a better place to find official data, kindly teach me. I am a ready and willing learner.


The Ironman Syracuse 70.3 has a lot of good things going for it. They have a pretty good swim. A challenging, yet picturesque bike. They struggle on the run.

Two years ago, I did not do this race (mostly because I didn't learn about the race until it was over). The swim and bike were the same. Back then, they had this idea to run point to point. The run itself was a net downhill run, meaning that there was potential for fast times. This also meant that people had to be bussed back to the race site. People were not very happy with the bus ride back (no comment on how the bus company felt about hauling sweaty, smelly triathletes on their plush fabric seats).

Last year, they changed the course to be a 2-loop, lasso-shaped run. The run featured some rolling hills, a couple of larger hills, and kept athletes closer to transition. The run also went over some railroad tracks. Well, rumor has it that the RR company was not pleased with needing to shut down train traffic for most of a day. The run course was changed for the 3rd year in a row.
This year we ran south out of transition, on to the main road, hung a left into a neighborhood, and up a hill. Then, at the top of the hill, we turned around and went back. Repeat 2 times.

Just for the record, I did not like this year's course. There are a couple of reasons for that opinion. If you look at the course map, you'll see that the first portion of the run was in the park, indicated in green. It is a beautiful park. However, a majority of the run in the park was on cobblestones. No, not the nicely paved, compressed cobbles. These were the type that had sharp edges. The type that you could pick up and launch to defend yourself against an attacker or small, predatory animal. They were not very fun to run on. (Aside: I heard a comment that some lady ran the course barefoot. Wow! I struggled in shoes. More evidence towards my pansiness. End Aside.)

The situation did not improve when we left the park. Now that we were on the main road, a different problem presented itself. The race organizers were able to close down a lane of of the road. Good for us. Bad for motorists. However, in that one lane of traffic, there was a bike lane for people returning from their ride. There was outbound running traffic. There was inbound running traffic. Basically, it was cone-to-shoulder athletes. There was not a lot of room for elbows.

Once you made the left hand turn off of the main road, about 2 miles into the run, things got nice. We entered a neighborhood and had both lanes to our running bliss. I was averaging 7:50s per mile at this time and feeling pretty good. Perhaps I was a little tired. Perhaps I was a little warm. Perhaps I was an idiot.

My Time With a Pro
I happened to be running with one of the professional ladies, #47 Suzy Serpico. She was on her 2nd lap and I on my first. To be honest, I had never heard of her before. Here's a link to her site. (Oddly, no mention of me.) She was pretty hot running well and I took advantage of hanging with a pro for a short while. I tried to pay attention to what she did at the aid station. She took in ice and sponged herself down. I ogled. I noticed that she was not wearing socks for the run. Suzy was very serious about her job and did it efficiently.

The bliss continued for only about a 1/2 mile. This is where the pain began. We started to go up. Suzy was not kind enough to wait for me (she ended up an awesome 7th in the ladies race). Then we turned right and continued to go up. I was, once again, running alone.

The Party
At the top of the hill was the best group of volunteers ever at an event. They had prepped the course before the race with encouraging sidewalk chalk. They were literally having a luau. Men and women dressed in grass skirts. The boys had on coconut bras. The ladies were in Hawaiian shirts and festive garb. They were playing tropical, reggae sorts of music. They were screaming and yelling with copious amounts of energy. It kind of made the suffering up the hill worth it. Kind of. Regardless on my attitude towards that hill, these volunteers were the greatest!

The return trip down the hill was fast. Maybe a bit too fast. I screamed down the hill with reckless abandon and passed some of the better uphillers. By mile 4.5, we were back on the main road. The running lane back towards transition added another challenge. Not only were we granted a running space of roughly 3.5 feet wide, but we were sequestered to the road's shoulder. This particular shoulder had a nice slope to encourage water runoff. It also encouraged runner runoff. I remember distinctly that my left leg did not enjoy being topside while my right leg got to enjoy the comforts of full extension.

I was excited to get off of the main road. They plopped an aid station at the right hand turn and I was getting hot and dehydrated. In reflection, I'm pretty sure that I did not take in enough water on the bike. It was warmer than I had anticipated and that fact was starting to rear it's ugly head. Once you start down the path of dehydration during a distance run, forever shall it dominate your destiny.

My excitement was short lived as we were back on the cobble stone path of hell. I opted to run on the very edge of the path, which was half dirt/ half bruise-inducing limestone. It almost felt like cheating. Almost. We ran back to transition, turned around, and headed out for another loop.

Lap 2
As I started the second lap, bike traffic had slowed down significantly but running traffic had increased. The runners were becoming bold enough to run on the edge of the bike lane. It didn't seem so bad this time. Of course, I was running high on steam but low on energy. I made it to the hill and started to walk.

The number of spectators at the hill had increased dramatically. Included in this bunch of people was a small group of college-aged coeds. As I walked, I was staring intently at a space on the hill about 20 feet in front of me. One of these aforementioned college-aged spectators just happened to be a girl. In a black bikini top. In black short-shorts. Wearing Vibram Five Fingers. She stepped in front of me and contacted my eyes. She walked backwards while I plodded forwards. She continually spouted out words of encouragement as I made my way up. I'd be lying if I told you I heard a single word she said. I was concentrating on, umm, the hill in front of me. She escorted me to the right hand turn and went back down to find another victim of her siren ways. I had considered going back down for another turn.

The luau was still going strong even if I wasn't. I was still walking. So was Blaine. Blaine was a 47 year old female on her first lap. She was dressed all in pink and had her hair in a nice, sporty ponytail. I must also note that she is a much better walker up hills than me. I told her as much and she laughed. I'm not sure if the humor was in my statement or my patheticness. Maybe both.

As I made my way down, I did some mental math. This sort of activity is a wonderful distractor from running related discomfort. Since it was clear that I was not going to set any kind of PR on the run, I wanted to finish in under 2 hours. At the bottom of the hill, I calculated that I needed to run at about a 9:30 pace from here on out to succeed. Now that I had a goal, I also had a race-related focus instead of something that was well outside of my dating pool.

The Pain
As I made it back on to the main road, the pack had thinned out. The bike leg was all but complete and the space for running was wider. The left leg did not complain (it might have simply gone numb). My entire being was hot, sweaty, and miserable. Don't believe me. I have proof. Or, I should say that has proof. If you want to see just how bad I was feeling, this pic says it all.

I crossed the line and stopped the Garmin. It had me at 1:59.50 for the run. I had 10 seconds left to spare. Race listed me at 1:59.18, which I would have used as backup ego in case I needed it.

My unofficial race time was 5:18.53 or about 10 minutes slower than last year. That time was good enough for 276th place overall.

I did not enjoy the run course. I did not mind the big hill, especially with the bikini/ luau scenery. The cobblestone path and the crowded main road were just not fun. The logistics of that stretch of road are something I hope that the RD revisits and solves in the future.

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