That did NOT go as planned…
I had a pretty lofty expectation for the Happy Valley PSU 70.3 this past weekend. I went to Penn State for a short time as an undergraduate student, I am a very big Penn State fan, I LOVE State College, my triathlon team sent 30+ athletes to the race, and I had about 10 of my own athletes racing!! It was a big weekend for me, and I was excited for it.
Looking back, I can say that all of those variables likely created an unnecessary amount of stress on the day, but I still felt super excited and that I was handling it appropriately. I was honestly MORE excited to see how my athletes performed. Sure, I was focused on my own race, per usual, but racing a 70-mile race WITH my athletes was a cool feeling. I hadn’t raced any triathlons since OH70.3 last season in late July, so nearly 1 year.
**I’m going to give a quick recap of how the day went for me, but will dive into much more detail on an upcoming podcast episode**
The swim was just gorgeous. One of the best Ironman swims I’ve ever been a part of. With only TWO turns on a clockwise course, this was ideal for me. I’m a right-side breather so this was very comfortable. The water temperature was 75, making it a wetsuit-legal swim. This wasn’t necessary for me, but it was helpful to have the wetsuit I suppose. I swam well. My goal was 40 minutes. I’m capable of a bit faster, but the bike course is challenging, and I wanted to come out of the water feeling fresh and ready to attack. I came out in 39 minutes, so I was off to a great start.
This bike course is the hardest I’ve ridden. Thankfully, I rode it before race day with some friends. A beautiful bike course, with nonstop rolling hills and two very steep climbs. The entire course totalling just over 3600ft of elevation. Up to the first climb was very simple. Some rolling hills, lots of speed and smooth roads. I was able to average over 20mph at a low heart rate up to the first climb. Things were certainly going as planned up to this point. The first climb came around mile 28, and it was 1 mile long, averaging about 5% incline. At one point, the incline touched 15%, but just for a moment. This climb was very steep, but short. I was prepared for it and executed well. My effort on the bike was near perfect, to be honest. I was closely monitoring my heart rate before each of the hills, and that allowed me to calibrate my overall effort. I conserved quite a bit for the hills and it paid off, as I slowly passed a lot of other athletes during each of the climbs. Between climb 1 and climb 2, there was a stretch of about 10 miles. These were fast miles once again! I picked up more speed and slowly started passing more athletes. I was able to conserve my energy for the big climb efficiently. Still feeling great. The big climb came around mile 40. Again, I was prepared for this, having ridden the course before race day. This climb was nearly 800ft of elevation over 3 miles, averaging 7% incline. Honestly, not too bad of an incline, but 3 miles is a fairly long climb. Once again, I passed many athletes on this climb. One of my own athletes saw me passing people and gave me some kudos. I was feeling great. After this climb, the course is essentially over! With only 13 miles to go, it’s a nice cruise into T2. I finished the climb and started calibrating my effort so that I could give the run a good effort. I slightly pulled back my effort so I could recover my heart rate. I was very in tune with how my legs were feeling, and honestly I was VERY confident I could put forth a sub-6hr day with a 9:30-10:00 average mile pace during the run. That was my big goal and I was on pace! Here’s where things went bad…
The course is essentially constant rolling hills. I made a pass on an athlete during a small rolling hill, and as the hill started descending, a sharp left hand turn approached. The road was wet because it was raining for at least an hour during the bike. Since I had gained speed from making a pass, I needed to hit my brakes before the turn. I hit my brakes harder than I would’ve liked, and my back tire begain fish tailing on the wet road. Once this happened, my center of gravity was compromised and I went over my handlebars at 29.2 mph. I landed directly on my head, right shoulder, and right side of my body. I laid there in a daze. Did not feel good. My head was dizzy, I was seeing stars, and eventually realized my hip was messed up. To what degree, I wasn’t sure. After about 5-8 minutes, I slowly got up and gave my bike a look. Everything seemed okay, but since I wasn’t sure, I went very slow for the last 7 miles to get to T2. So now I’ve lost the 8 minutes on the side of the road, and even more time because I was cautiously riding back to T2. I didn’t realize how bad my hip was because the injury was so acute. I had plans for a 2:55-3:00hr bike split and ended up with 3:13hr. My run would also be greatly affected.
I took my time in T2. Still in a daze, with a headache, wondering if I should even continue the race. I quickly decided I would continue. This run was essentially a SLOG. I wasn’t even able to hold a 10-11minute mile pace. Uncharacteristic for me. I was defeated and got quite emotional on the course. All of those factors I mentioned earlier started to resurface. I felt happy, sad, defeated, alone, determined, proud…it was a mixture of good and bad, and I was dealing with it in real time at a VERY slow pace and while in pain.
I ended up finishing the day around 6:40hr total. About 45 minutes slower than my goal of sub-6hr. Frankly, it is what it is. EVERY race is different. Literally every single race can be so incredibly different. Weather, sleep, fueling, mechanical issues, shoe laces, etc….the smallest variable can change the entire course of the day. This race simply became a war. Will I finish the race? became the question. I wanted to finish badly, so I decided to just make it happen. Finishing on the 50-yard line of Beaver Stadium was almost a dream come true. I love State College and this feeling made it all worth it.
I did go to the medical tent post-race, got a diagnosed concussion, and I took it easy all week this week. Thankfully, my head is fine! Now I’m dealing with some very deep muscle bruising. Thankfully nothing is broken.
I’m proud of this finish. It wasn’t what I had in mind, at all. But this race took a turn for the worse, and I was still able to battle it out and experience a great day with my teammates and athletes! I’m hoping to give Ohio70.3 a solid effort in a couple weeks. Thanks for all the support!