I loved racing the Ohio 70.3 last weekend. It’s my first real race since 2019, and why not go bigger with a 70.3? No need to do a full IRONMAN again just yet. Since I started doing this sport, I always wanted to do a triathlon in my home state, and besides being in Ohio, this race checked all of my favorite things about racing: within driving distance from home, small college town, a lake swim, mostly flat bike course with some rollers near the end, and a hilly run course that had some shade with a nice long descent.
The lake swim was in Delaware State Park, and is a reservoir, which is similar to where I do most of my practice swims in PA and NJ. Murky brown green water that you’re lucky to see your hand in front of your face is what I’m used to. In fact, on race day, I almost swam over another athlete because I couldn’t see his legs that were right in front of me. Thunderstorms churned up some of the water and left a nice chop with a few swells, but nothing like the ocean or the pull of the tides. I swam the course wide and checked on a few athletes who were struggling in the beginning of the swim–I’ve been there. However, my choice to swim the course wide along with the added time waiting at the start after walking under the arch added a few minutes to my projected time. Good thing I didn’t care. For the first race back, I just wanted to find my swimming groove.
I kept transition short since I was anxious to start the bike to see what my new Trek Domane SLR 7 with tubeless 32c tires could do. This bike is not a TT or triathlon bike, and I’m usually one of the few athletes racing a roadie on the course. All I wanted was a comfortable ride without having to deal with bottle cages behind the saddle or an aero bottle. I’ve used those before and know I can no longer ride in aero due to an injury. So, roadie it is! And thank goodness! About 10 miles or more of this bike course was chip sealed–not ideal for a TT bike. That surface is rough. It was no problem for my Domane though–I flew through that section of chip sealed road and onto the rollers, leaving TT bikes in my dust. One rider, who eventually did catch up to me because I’m not super fast, said, “I’ve been trying to catch you for the last 10 miles. You’re fast on those hills!” Thank, you total stranger athlete. I’ll carry those words with me for awhile because that’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten while racing.
T2 was even faster than T1, but hot, hot, hot. It was on the track and turf at Ohio Wesleyan University, and the heat just swirled around my head in the full sun. Gone were the clouds and threatening rain from the swim and bike course. It’s HOT. 85-90 degrees F with high humidity. Gosh, I suck at running in the heat, and the headache that started around mile 40 on the bike course was a full blown migraine now. I racked my bike and had to own the mistake of opting for the on course nutrition on the run, which meant I had nothing left from the ride. The nearest aid station was a mile away in the heat of the full sun. I ran, I walked, I wanted to quit. I told myself that if I ran slow and added some walk intervals and made it safe and sound to the first aid station, that I would wait until the next aid station to see how I felt and then decide if I was going to walk off the course and turn in my timing chip.
At the first aid station, I grabbed three cups: Gatorade, Coke, water. I needed the caffeine to see if it would get rid of the headache or at least make it manageable. I drank all three in that order, took a banana. Ate that. Took another cup of Gatorade. Drank that. And last of all, I grabbed two cups of ice: one for my back side and one down the front–my tri kit would keep the ice in place and cool me as it melted. This all worked. By the 2nd aid station, I used the port-o-potty because I remembered I had to pee and then I went back for more snacks. At mile 4, I felt like a million bucks and was totally thrilled that I could count the miles left on two hands. No more double digit miles for the first time today!
By mile 9, I came to regret the Gatorade and Coke, but I held on, ran to each aid station and only walked when I went through the aid stations. The last three aid stations kept me going to the finish line where I did my best to look thrilled when all I wanted to do was to sit down with the after race food and see if my stomach settled. It didn’t. I could hardly eat anything, so I walked to the car with my family, sat in the air conditioning, and proceeded to pick apart a blueberry muffin in small, edible chunks while sipping on water to try and get some calories in. Phil went to pick up my bike and gear because I couldn’t.
On the way back to the hotel, I got a smoothie of 700 calories and sipped it for the next hour or so. I felt much better after that and a shower. Then, I started thinking about when I would do my next race.