Defeated by Steelhead 70.3 – Emily’s Story

In August, Nick and I set out for our first 70.3 race.  Nick wrote his race report a month after the race.   I, on the other hand, couldn’t muster the courage to write mine.  We’ve always said we would tell you the successes and failures, but failures are hard to write about.  I believe it’s important to admit that I will not always succeed, but I will overcome it.  Although we are now over six months after the race, I give you my race report.

2015 Ironman Steelhead 70.3Race Weekend
We left Friday afternoon and made our way to Indiana, sleeping there for the evening.  We ate dinner at Lone Start restaurant, and began the carb loading.

Saturday morning, we left the hotel early, grabbed a bite at Starbucks, and went straight to check-in at the race site.  I was happy we didn’t plan n getting there later in the afternoon, as we crossed a timezone thus arriving an hour later than anticipated.

We checked in, attended the race briefing, and racked our bikes.  We left the race site, ate lunch at Panera, then drove the bike course.  As we scoped the course, we noted a few climbs, but the rest seemed pretty tolerable and nice scenery.

2015 Ironman Steelhead 70.3 Bike                2015 Ironman Steelhead 70.3 Bike

Next we went to the grocery to pick up some items needed for race day including couple of gallons of water, some fruit, granola bars, chapstick, and a huge permanent marker to re-do our race numbers.

Race Day

We woke up very early the next morning.  I remained calm as we started getting ready.  I tried to eat breakfast, but wasn’t able to get it all down.  We left the hotel and head to the race site.  We were in traffic for a few minutes, before we were able to park.  With my tai-bags on my back, carrying a grocery bag full of water bottles and accessories, and a gallon of water in tow, we began walking to the transition area.  Not too far beyond the parking lot, the front of my flipflop caught an unloved piece of concrete, bending it down beneath my foot, causing my big toe to catch the protruding piece of concrete.  My world unfolded in slow motion before me.  I began falling forward. The weight of the loaded transition bag on my back along with the gallon jugs in my hands, tipped my upper body forward, causing my feet to scramble underneath me.  I tried like hell to balance out, stammering loudly across the sidewalk in my flipflops, my feet not gaining much ground on my upper half.  I could see people watching me as the spectacle unfolded.  My upper body tilting forward more and more, my feet slapping the ground, desperately trying to even the playing field.  I took about twenty steps, then I finally fell to the ground.  I heard a gasp as the onlookers, who just knew I could pull through and recover, watched the gallon jugs crash down, my palms and knees dig into the concrete, and the water bottles fly across the ground.  I rolled into the grass, sat up, and cried.  People were trying not to stare, as I sat there, defeated.

Nick helped me gather my things, and I wiped off the loose gravel in my hands and legs and continued on our way.  The walk from the car to transition was about a mile.  As we made the last turn, I realized I no longer had my keys.  I began to freak out.  We turned around in search of my car keys, both knowing where we would find them, but not sure how long it would take given it was still dark out.  We looked along the sidewalk, and searched the grass until we finally found the keys near the huge water spot on the sidewalk.  With keys in hand, we walked back toward the transition area.

Steelhead Beach Emily and NickWe arrived in transition and each set up our transition areas.  We then put on our wetsuits and headed to the beach for a quick swim before the race.  The water was cool and there were a few waves, but I felt good.  We hung around the beach until the race began.

My wave was before Nick’s, so I hung out with him until the last possible moment.  Then it was time to say our goodbyes.  I began to get nervous.

The Swim 

Next thing I knew, it was my wave, and we were in the water.  As we stood there, waiting for the sound of the horn, I had my game plan.  I hung back for a little while, letting the much faster, more experienced swimmers get in the water first.

After several yards, I began swimming.  I was trampled by a few girls, and began to swim a little further away from the buoys.  I swam, watching each buoy in front of me. When I got to the first turn, I looked up, and was headed toward one of the jet skis.  I began treading water, the nice lady asked if I was okay.  I told her I was fine, I just needed to catch my breath and sight.  I checked my watch, and saw that I was making pretty good time.  I began swimming back toward the buoys, when one of the waves caught up to me.  The start of the pack trampled over me.  I began to swim further away from the buoys to get out of their way.

I hit the halfway mark and realize my pace had slowed.  Getting out wasn’t an option, so I pressed on.  I winced as each wave passed me, and would swim away from the buoy to avoid being trampled again. I finally made it to the last turn.  I looked at my watch and knew I had to really push myself to make the time cutoff.

With only a few buoys left, I began to feel ill.  I stopped swimming for a second, feeling like I was going to throw up.  Before I could even think that was impossible, I found out it was possible to tread water while puking.  I spotted a nearby kayak, waved my hand to catch his attention, and swam to him.  I grabbed the side of the kayak, and got sick again.  The nice young man asked, “What’s wrong?”  I couldn’t answer because I was sick again.  He repeated the question, and I told him I wasn’t feeling well, and got sick again.  He asked if I was going to finish the race.  I told him I wasn’t sure, as I had already passed the cutoff time, and it didn’t really matter at this point.  He encouraged me, saying I was almost there, and I looked to see that I was only about 400 yds from the swim out.  I told him I would finish the swim.  All told, I was on the side of the kayak for about 3 minutes, then I took a deep breath and began swimming again.

As I was emerging out of the water, I heard my name.  I looked around and saw Nick standing there.  I talked to him for a moment, and he told me he had been pulled from the race.  I told Nick I didn’t know what to do, I had been sick in the water, missed the cutoff time, and wasn’t sure if I could finish the race.  I crossed the timing mat and went to my bike.  I noticed there were only a few bikes left in transition.  I sat at my bike, trying to decide if I could continue.  The little bit of breakfast I was able to stomach, was now in Lake Michigan; which meant my nutrition was shot for the day.  My hands were shaking, my stomach was unsettled, and I was rattled.

After sitting next to my bike for about 10 minutes, I handed in my timing chip.  I packed my bag, grabbed my bike, and walked out of transition.  I was defeated.

Nick and I walked to the car, neither of us successful in completing our first 70.3.  The rest of the day was gloomy and painful (both mentally and physically – my hands and knees were bleeding from the fall earlier that day).

The rest of the trip was a blur.  I remember going back to the hotel and contacting our coach for a plan of redemption.  Steelhead Swim Emily

Swim Time – 01:25:02 (4:24/100)

Just a note:  The swim time includes my time hanging out on the kayak, as well as my chat with Nick.  Also, according to Garmin, I swam 2800 yds (nearly 1.6 miles); this is well over the 1.2 miles that everyone else swam.

What went wrong?

Sighting.  I never practiced sighting.  It’s hard to get through an open water swim without properly sighting.

Open water swimming.  Truth be told, this was only my second time ever swimming in open water.  My first time was my first triathlon.  The waves were rough, at least that’s what I hear.

Training.  While trying to decide if I could continue the race, I knew my training efforts leading up to the race were dismal.  Had I been confident in my training, I would have continued the race, regardless of my swim time.

Going Forward

I hired a coach to help with training, and he has been a life saver.

Steelhead was a great experience, even if I didn’t cross the finish line.