Overview: Coming off a 70.3 the prior weekend, I didn’t know what to expect at this race. After finishing the Door County Half Iron on Sunday, I hopped on a 9am Monday morning flight to Denver for work. I wasn’t able to train much while out in CO (1 run, 1 swim and 1 bike), but the body recovered pretty quick and I didn’t feel too bad. I flew home Thursday afternoon, packed up my bags and hit the road at 4am on Friday morning for Ohio. 9 hours later we made it to the expo around 3pm for race check in. Friday and Saturday consisted of a few shakeout workouts and dinner at Olive Garden (always).
Having won this race back in 2019, I was excited to come back and try to defend my AG title. There hasn’t been a pro race here, so its fun when the amateurs get a chance to break the tape. I knew there was a handful of fast guys that would be racing, so I knew I had to have a solid day to repeat the win!
PRE-RACE: I woke up at 3:15am race morning for a 6:30am start. I ate breakfast (about 600 calories) and then headed to drop off my run bag at T2. The race was a 2 transition set-up so we had to take a shuttle starting at 4am. We were one of the first people on the shuttle and took the short 20 min bus ride to the swim.
At transition, I got to my bike, set up my transition area, pumped up my tires, put my shoes on my pedals and topped off my nutrition. I got a short swim warm up in and headed to the start line about 15 mins before the race kicked off. About 10 minutes before the start, officials notified us the race would be delayed about 20 minutes due to shuttle buses getting stuck in traffic. I stayed loose and continued to drink sports drink as we waited for the start. As we lined up again, I took a gel (15 mins before) and was ready to rock!
SWIM: I started about 3 guys back of the start line. I knew there was a couple fast swimmers in the field so I wanted to be able to start as close up as possible. I’ve been working on starting off the swim strong, but controlled. I don’t want to overexert myself too early and ruin my swim. I started off strong and felt in control.
I swam most of the race alone, catching a few athletes and trying to hang out to a couple athlete’s feet as they went by. I felt pretty strong most of the race, but I could definitely feel my bike jersey sleeves catching the water as I swam. The bike bibs probably didn’t help either, felt like I was swimming in a diaper 🙂 – SWIM 27:17 (2nd AG, 7th Overall)
T1: Coming out of the water, I knew there would be a decent sized gap behind the leaders. Exiting the water, my dad said I was about 2-3 minutes back of the front and about 6-7 people back. I stripped off my swim skin, grabbed my helmet and ran my bike out of transition. As soon as I mounted, my chain fell off and got stuck underneath my crank. I laid my bike down and struggled with the chain, cutting my hands up from the crank. After about 45 seconds I was able to get the chain back on and hop back on the bike, albeit with about 15 little cuts on my hands. T1 – 1:50
BIKE: After the debacle out of T2, I set my sights on riding down the leaders. This course was very flat with a long 20 mile stretch to start off. My bike legs felt great early and was about to hold around 290-300w. I passed a few athletes early and kept pushing the pace. I yo-yo’d with an athlete for a bit, before finally pulling away. Around mile 30, I could see the race leader and lead vehicle. By mile 34, I took the race lead. My legs were still feeling great, so I wanted to push a bit and open up a gap on the guys behind me. After about 10 minutes, I looked back and didn’t see anyone. I keep on the pedals and made my way back into T2. BIKE – 2:05:45 (Fastest overall bike split, new course record)
T2: Coming into T2, I knew I had a decent lead so I wanted to make sure I’d be quick, but also didn’t want to rush and forget anything. As I was leaving T2 I could see the 2nd place athlete just entering transition. I figured I had about a 2 minute gap. Looking back at the times, I came into T2 with a 1:45 lead. T2 – 1:51
RUN: Coming out of T2, my goal was to run consistent throughout the race. I knew if I could run around 1:20ish I would have a good shot at being able to hold on for the lead. I took the first mile out pretty strong (slight downhill), before settling into a 6:05-6:10 pace for the next few miles. The air was pretty thick and muggy which made it a little hard to breathe. My body was hot as well, with my HR soaring into the high 170’s and low 180’s. Each aid station I had the same routine – grab as much water as possible and pour it over my head, grab some Red Bull and top things off with a few gulps of water.
This was a 2-loop course with a bunch of rollers. Since there was quite a bit of rolling terrain, I was never able to get a good look behind me to see where 2nd place was. As the body started to hurt, my pace began to fade a little bit. I helped offset this by grabbing a banana and taking a bite every half mile or so. I kept the Red Bull coming at each aid station to try and will the body to the finish. I knew if I could get up the hill at mile 11.5 I could coast the downhill to the finish. I coasted the hill and looked back with no one in sight.
I was able to enjoy the last mile of the run, being cheered on my runners who were just starting out on their 13.1 mile run (Hi Jeri!!!). As I entered the stadium, I definitely felt the emotions get me a bit as I haven’t really had a breakthrough race yet this season. I made the final turn on the track, pointed and my dad in the stands and then broke the tape. Mission accomplished. RUN – 1:22:46 (3rd fastest overall run).
OVERALL: I finished just under the 4hr hour mark for the 3rd time this year and set a new Ohio 70.3 course record in doing so (3:59:29). I did my best Jan Frodeno impersonation at the finish line and was able to give my dad a big birthday hug. It wasn’t a perfect race by any means, but I was thrilled to be able to show off my hard work and defend my age group title.
THANKS: Big thanks to everyone who sent me a good luck or congratulations message, it means a lot! Shoutout to my sherpa for the weekend, my dad, who spent his 65th birthday with me driving to and from Columbus (8 hours each way) and cheering for me on course! Lastly, huge thanks to the entire Zwift Academy Triathlon team including the Zwift crew, Whoop, ROKA, Hyperice, ScienceInSport, Wahoo and Specialized!
UP NEXT: After a summer full of racing, next up is a solid IRONMAN training block in preparation for the IRONMAN World Championships on October 9th. In September I’ll attempt another back-to-back with the IRONMAN 70.3 Wisconsin and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships (St George, UT). Three weeks after 70.3 Worlds is the big one, Kona!