I went into Ironman 70.3 Muncie with some lofty goals and hit one of them . . . but it was probably the reason I didn’t hit the most important one. The start was delayed 15 minutes because of traffic, so I got in a nice warm up swim and was ready to go learn some lessons. Three to be exact.
My overall goal was to be under 5 hours and I felt pretty good considering the alarm went off at 4 am and the last time I was up at that hour was during an all-night Netflix marathon. The cooler temperatures and tons of rain turned it into a wetsuit race and the weather was nearly perfect.
The first thing I noticed was how different the buoy line was from the course map. I wrote about tactics for the Muncie swim a few days earlier, and Ironman threw a wicked curve ball.
Instead of the traditional inverted triangle, the first leg was a bowed curve and the backstretch was a straight line. My mind was frazzled as I thought of the dozens of Crushing Iron readers I had misled, but quickly came up with a plan to outsmart the Ironman-course-layers, but you never beat Ironman.
I had a decent swim (just over 36 minutes) but going in I thought I could be around 34:00. I stayed with the buoys for the most part, but tried some “short-cut” strategy against that buoy-curve and think it ultimately cost me some distance.
After the race we were talking at our Bed and Breakfast and Joanne (who swam 33 minutes) said she followed the buoys the entire way and her Garmin read a nearly a perfect 2112 yards.
First lesson learned at Muncie: Follow the buoys.
Muncie was the first time I’d experienced my age group going off at the front. There was one group ahead of us, but it was strange being in the first 50 people out of transition.
As we all knew, the course was fast and very tempting, but that’s also why I think it’s hard. No hills means you are churning the entire time with no real chances to give your legs a break and I wasn’t quite prepared.
I had a sub-5-hour overall goal, but was also trying to get top 5 in my age group. I was 17th out of the water in my age group, so I knew that most of the people ahead of me were direct competition. As I approached the first turnaround a lot of people were way ahead other way and I was in serious jeopardy of getting blown off the podium.
I didn’t “hammer” the bike, but I was just on the edge and pushing a little more than I would have liked. No power meter or heart rate monitor, I just knew I was a tad out of my range.
I didn’t know how far off the front I was, but it turned out that my 21.5 mph average was only good for 20th in my age group! I lost three slots on the bike, but I’ve realized that most of us older guys are better cyclists than runners, so I took a deep breath and hoped my extra run training would pay off.
2nd Lesson learned (remembered) at Muncie: Don’t go even a hair out of your comfort zone on the bike.
The second I got off my bike, I knew I might have trouble. I’ve never dealt with hamstring issues, but suddenly I could “feel” both of mine. I didn’t have much bounce, but hoped a couple miles on the run would remind my legs that they have been running really well.
I was timing my pace by hitting restart at the mile markers and my first three were all under 8 minutes, which was likely too fast because my breathing was a little heavy. I settled in around Mile 4 but by the time I reached the ever-elusive turn-around, my hamstrings felt weak.
I focused on short strides and a pace I knew I could keep. At this point it was managing pain and simply not stopping.
When I looked at my pace for Mile 8, I was stunned to see a 9:30. I mean, I knew I was losing a little steam, but that was a dramatic shift considering I was sub-8 through the halfway point. I desperately tried to pick up the pace and Mile 9 was around 9:15. I grabbed my first GU and washed it with water, then knocked out Mile 10 at 7:45. I was back!
I couldn’t locate GU at the next aid station and Mile 11 fell back to around 9 minutes. I squeezed in another packet and Mile 12 went back to sub 8.
It was a strange run that ended at 1:49 (8:20 pace).
I had raced Muncie before and commented on how the hills caught me off guard. For some reason, I chose to ignore that wisdom and it bit me. They aren’t huge, but they are constant. Up and down, not much in terms of flat running.
3rd Lesson Learned (remembered) at Muncie: Run a lot of hills and fuel earlier with something other than Gatorade.
I’m just not in good enough shape to be talking about podiums. I think my speed is close, but all three of my events need more endurance training.
My goal for the bike was 21 mph and I really think that extra .5 mph threw off my run. The run goal was 1:45 and came in at 1:49. The time was more or less a trade off, but in the big picture, my efforts made the bike and run less enjoyable. Not to mention took any possibility of a great run off the table.
But, you live and learn. Despite what I would consider a disappointing run, I still moved up from 20th to 13 overall in my age group (out of 133).
My time of 5:06:21 was about 8 minutes off the podium and clearly points to one thing. I still have to #do work.