Ohio 70.3 Race Report – 7/23/23
This race was awesome. This is the second year I’ve done this race, and also the second year the race has been held in Sandusky, Ohio. A quick backstory…this race used to be in Deleware, Ohio. It was announced to be held in Sandusky about 2.5 years ago, and I immediately jumped on it. My wife’s family has a lakehouse in Sandusky, Ohio! So naturally, it makes sense for me to race out here! I’ve ridden this course countless times and I absolutely love it out here. We spend a lot of our summer weekends out in Sandusky, so this race is kind of special to our family. Family support at races like this is very important. Having experienced the great support last year, I knew this would be an awesome race for me. Let’s dive into the race report.
The city of Sandusky
This city is pretty cool. Ironman Village seems perfectly placed, right by Jackson Street Pier. Nestled in perfectly, with the single transition area only 2 blocks away from the swim start. It really is a great start to the race. The downtown atmosphere is great in Sandusky. The run course has TONS of opportunities for support and hype. That’s important and plays a role in how these races are perceived. More on that when we get to the run.
Really no issues at all here with driving to the destination, parking cars, walking, etc. Unlike Happy Valley 70.3, everything is all very close together. There is only one transition area, making things simple. Before the swim, it was announced that the swim would be wetsuit “optional.” That means the water temperature was recorded between 76.2-82,9 degrees F. At 76.1 degrees, the swim is wetsuit “legal,” meaning all athletes can wear their wetsuits without penalty or adjustments to placing, etc. In a wetsuit “optional” race, athletes can still wear their wetsuits, but are then no longer allowed to compete for podium spots, qualifications for worlds, etc. So technically, I could have raced in my wetsuit since I am nowhere near age group qualifications, etc. However, I made the decision to skip the wetsuit and wear my swimskin. The swimskin is not buoyant, so it is legal to wear in a wetsuit “optional” event. Unfortunately for me, it was the first time I ever wore my swimskin. I do NOT advise this and it was a mistake of mine for a couple reason. 1) I put it on backwards initially, and didn’t realize it until I attempted to pull it up 10 minutes prior to the race. I quickly got out of line, changed it around, and got back in line. And 2) it chaffed my neck BAD during the swim and it stung for the rest of the day. Had I worn it prior to the race, I would have been aware of this and prepared better. Oh well.
This is a hard swim. It was hard last year, and it was hard again this year. I was better prepared for it mentally this time around. I knew my time would be slower than a typical race, so it didn’t surprise me when I came out about 8 minutes slower than my typical pacing. Last year I was expecting a full 10 minutes faster for my swim time. So when I came out of the water last year, I was pissed off when I saw 10 minutes slower than expected. This year, not the case. I knew it would be slow and it didn’t bother me at all. The swim is slow for a few reasons. First of all, the swim entry is a jump off a boat! Pretty awesome. But since you’re jumping off a boat, the official swim START line isn’t for about 10-20 meters into the swim. Not ideal, but it’s a cool swim start. The swim begins with about 200m straight out, then a sharp left. This straight-away is the longest straight-away of the swim. Although the swim is protected, early morning makes this direction against the current. After this long straight-away, another hard left, then a quick hard left again. Now there are two lanes of athletes swimming in opposite directions. The difficult part about this is that the athletes are wayyyy too close to one another, in my opinion. I’m not sure why these lanes are so close to each other, since there is tons of space to expand the distance between swimmers going out and swimmers coming in, but I digress. The fact that these lanes are so close to one another presents an issue. It creates somewhat of a “washing machine” or “blender” effect. Noone was aware of this last year. So tons of athletes were frustrated with the difficulty of the swim. I think Ironman chose to leave it as is for the simple reason of just leaving it a difficult swim. Why not? If you don’t like it, don’t register. (that’s what I’m guessing Ironman is thinking about the swim course design) I’m not a huge fan of it, but I also kind of like that it’s difficult. So I actually swam well, but finished in about 47 minutes. A full 8 minutes slower than Happy Valley 70.3 just 3 weeks ago (a swim where I intentionally pulled back my effort in preparation for a tough bike course).
I love this bike course. I’ve honestly probably ridden it 15 times or more in the past two years in preparation for each of these races. I rode it most recently by myself in about 2 hours and 37 minutes. I pushed it hard like a time trial to see just how fast I could ride during the race.
***Side note. I was dealing with a left hip/groin injury before Happy Valley 70.3 that prevented me from running at all in the 3 weeks leading up to that race. During Happy Valley 70.3, I crashed my bike badly at mile 50. Subsequently leading to a concussion and now a right hip/side injury. So leading into Ohio 70.3, I essentially had NO run training for 6-7 weeks. Yes, I jogged a couple times, but couldn’t really TRAIN the run appropriately. That being said, I rode my bike much more than normal and my bike fitness was in a great spot. So I rode this bike course hard during the race***
I rode this one tough. I had no idea how my run would feel during the race. But in the week or so before Ohio 703, I had attempted a couple run-offs that felt good ONLY after I pushed the bike pretty hard. So that led me to push the bike pretty hard during the race. I think this was my best decision and I’m glad I did it. The course is completely flat, so it’s essentially full gas the entire time. No brakes, minimal coasting. I ended up with a bike split of 2:34 and I was thrilled with that.
I actually started the run off feeling incredible. I was averaging in the mid 9’s per mile for about 6 miles and for that first hour, I actually thought I could hold that pace. I was surprising myself. I realized between miles 6-7 that I would NOT be able to hold the pace. It was important that I start walking the aid stations and fuel as best as I could. I did that and still ended up having a decent run (considering I didn’t really train the run). I averaged 11 min/mile. Not good for me AT ALL. But for this race, I was pleased. It came out to about a 2:35 half-marathon. Again, not ideal but I was happy with my effort. The run course also has a ton of spectator interaction. I love that. A lot of my Victory Multisport teammates were there cheering everyone on. That’s probably the best thing about VMS in my opinion; the crew of teammates who tag along to these races in support of others…just amazing and appreciated that so much during the race, just like at Happy Valley. So thank you to that VMS crew! (#irondads) But even moreso, my wife was able to get all three of my daughters on the run course to cheer me on and say hey. I saw them all multiple times and it just absolutely made my day. A lot of family came out to support me at Ohio and it was an incredible feeling. These races are hard. Over 70 miles. You get to the point of feeling like you want to quit multiple times. You often feel like “why am I even doing this. I wish this was over.” Etc. Etc. But seeing family can change your attitude quickly. I loved seeing everyone, it makes the world of a difference, so thank you to my wife and all family who came out to support me.
In total, I raced 5:58. This is the EXACT time I raced this course last year. On the surface, one might look at that and think, “hmm. why no improvement over a year?” But for me, I look at that and I celebrate it. Here’s why. I have 3 kids. One of whom is only 3 months old. I started putting a lot more effort and time into coaching my own athletes this season. I never once followed any formally structured plan. Did I “wing it”? No, but I had no formally structured program. I lifted a lot more this off-season, so I came in about 10 pounds heavier than last year’s racing weight. Lastly, I couldn’t run for about 7 weeks of this season. So yes, I look at the EXACT same finish time as last year as a victory. One I definitely celebrated!
Now that this race is over, I’m excited to rehab all of the injuries. Left hip/groin, right hip/side, and my concussion. Thankfully, the concussion symptoms were almost completely gone the couple days following the crash, so now I’m focusing on my lower body injuries. The off-season is a time for just that; repair, rehab, rest, and building for the next season. Since Ohio 70.3, I’ve actually been able to run, and that’s exciting. Things are looking up and I’ll be following a fairly strict off-season schedule in preparation for 2024.
Because in 2024, I’ll be heading to Lake Placid for 140.6.