2021 Augusta Ironman 70.3 Race Report

Wind Conditions

Introduction

  • Event: Ironman Augusta 70.3
  • Date: 26 September 2021
  • Distance: 70.3 Triathlon
  • Race Priority: 1
  • Result: 19 of 221 (AG)
  • CTL: 125
  • TSB: 21
  • HRV (rMSSD – Day, 7-Day, 30-Day): 62.8, 77.6, 97.4
  • Temp (High/Low): 78/57 (12:30PM / 7AM finish & start)
  • Wind: 2 mph N gusting 5 mph
  • Humidity: 91% at start to 72% off bike to 58% at finish

Report

On a scale of 1 to 10, (1 = poor, 10 = exceptional), how would you rate this performance?

8

Why did you rank it as such?

This was my first 70.3 and A-race that drove the season. The high-level goal of 5 hours was set at the beginning of the season and ATP which was achieved. There were some execution mistakes and opportunities for improvement to make the race a 10/10.

Swim – I self-seeded slower than my anticipated finish time, in the 30-33min wave. This gave me the chance to pass and this worked well. That said, I chose to swim closer to shore to have a clear unobstructed path ahead of me which also allowed me to have a very calm, controlled swim and focus on head position, breathing, sighting and constriction in my shoulders due to wearing a compressive swim-skin, and make active corrections to stroke. That said, it ultimately was a mistake as I ended up in still-water sans strong current assist which is apparent via GPS data and speed data as I entered the water at very low RPE and picked up the pace only once I had a clear headway and my speed dropped off from 1:0x to 1:2x which from practice data and known comparable swimmers I should have maintained the 1:0x with the strong current assist.

Bike – instead of 100% following my power targets, I executed this entirely by feel. This judgment call was due to a slight ping in my knee on race morning combined with a lack of confidence I wouldn’t cramp up as I had in one of my 3-4 practice race-pace efforts leading into race week. I felt strong and not overly exerted overall but missed my target race time by 6 minutes and lost out on best bike split in AG by <6 minutes which would have really pushed this race score by 1-2 points being my favorite discipline.

Run – coming off the bike in a ‘deficit’ sparked my drive to win back time as well as a rather low RPE for exceeding target pace of 9:30 min/mi in the 7:30-8:15 range right off the bike. Without any “brick” legs and not feeling winded nor high HR nor hot I favored pushing/holding this pace until RPE climbed and planned to let off at that point which did not come.

What was your travel itinerary to the event?

Flying in the Monday prior to a Sunday race was to give me plenty of time to cycle through my post flight stiffness and ranged soreness in various areas as well as any last-minute acclimation. I stayed at an Airbnb with a rented pickup truck to commute around the host city.

Did this affect your performance (positively or negatively)?

This likely won’t get any longer out of a prep week unless I don’t have to travel. If I were gifted a first-class flight that might have assisted my otherwise worse than usual flight soreness. My legs did not settle in until 1-2 days out from race day with noticeable pains and subpar power both on bike and run efforts. The acclimation wasn’t particularly successful as I had only one hot + humid day in which I flunked my run which was not particularly confidence inspiring. Otherwise getting an early opportunity to bike the old course which had similar characteristics and an additional 300’ of elevation gave me confidence that I wasn’t climbing ungraded mountains out here and was ready for the course profile.

How were stress levels in your life in the days before the race?

Low mental stress but elevated physical stress from flights which was anticipated.

How were your sleeping patterns in the days before the race?

Leading up to the race I was particular about prioritizing sleep and time in bed. I usually do not allow myself to enter the bed prior to sleep nor exit the bed anytime after waking (up immediately) for good sleep hygiene. As I wanted to push my sleep volume, I lapsed hygiene for hours, entering bed ~1+ hour prior to sleeping and exiting similarly. This resulted in additional hours and restfulness. The night of the race the adjacent property had a 12+ hour outdoor party lasting through the wee hours of the night which I was able to largely drown out with a white noise machine. I woke up at 12:30 AM and was largely unable to go back to sleep whatsoever due to nerves.

  • Monday to Tuesday – 8:53
  • Tuesday to Wednesday – 9:42
  • Wednesday to Thursday – 9:16
  • Thursday to Friday – 9:22
  • Friday to Saturday – 8:47
  • Saturday to Sunday (Race) – 5:07
  • Sunday to Monday – 8:11

How were your eating habits in the days before the race?

I opted for loose consistency dinner-wise compared to generally strict eating habits usually maintained.

All breakfast (& no lunch) this week was the same as home.

My first two nights I ate out (Mon/Tues).

Wed/Thurs breakfast + dinner + nighttime yogurt + fruit bowl had identical consistency with home.

Friday and Saturday, I again ate out for dinner.

Saturday night I recklessly slammed some cake which I’m sure spiked my insulin unnecessarily and possibly contributed to lack of sleep.

Race morning continued the habitual breakfast of two bagels + 1 banana + PB for consistency.

What were the weather conditions for the race?

Very lucky with race conditions in that they were unremarkable vs. home. Cool/cold morning with moderate temperatures through finish line. Post-race it immediately felt like I needed shade and felt bad for those that were held up during the swim when they paused the race for 40 minutes. They were starting their runs in some major heat.

What specific preparations did you make for these conditions (hydration, clothing, etc.)?

I worse socks with my sandals up until swim start, wouldn’t have minded a disposable robe to keep warm but wasn’t needed either. I carried an additional water bottle (2 total) with plain water in the event the heat picked up.

Were these preparations adequate?

Yes

What was your warmup routine for the race?

Shoulder / arm swings but otherwise nothing.

Was it effective?

Yes

What were you thinking about on the start line?

To ignore the cold plunge long enough for it to not matter and that the water was clear during practice.

Did this help or hurt your performance?

Yes, I went into the swim extremely calm and controlled and had the best mentally and physically executed OWS ever. I wish I had more feel for current or knowledge to have better executed my position in field but otherwise perfectly done. I also at the recommendation of a local tri pro (John Kenny) utilized a brand-new pair of (Magic5) goggles. I’ve used them before but after 1-2 uses they fog. This new pair approach resulted in the easiest sighting and straightest swim of my life.

On a scale of 1 to 10, (1 = poor, 10 = exceptional), what was your motivation level for this race?

10

Why did you rank it as such?

I viewed it as the only race of the season with the others being practice for this one, this was my only non-professional goal of the year.

What was your nutrition plan for the race?

  • Pre-load Sodium: “24 hours prior to start, I consumed all my liquids with a Gu hydration tabs to keep the sodium intake up” (copied approach of another 3V athlete)
  • Pre-race: 2hrs prior: 1 serving AltRed, leaving transition: 1 serving AltRed
  • Bike: 1.5 servings of Roctane per hour
  • Run: 2 gels available

How well did you execute the nutrition plan?

Hydration plan impacted nutrition plan resulting in a pivot. I ended up consuming a gel to limit fluid intake in the latter half of the bike leaving ~1/3 of my single-bottle Roctane solution unused. I did not once feel any cues of under-nutrition nor cramping in the race and felt primed throughout. I used one caffeinated gel on the run since I was pushing pace and unsure if I’d crash having deviated.

Could the nutrition plan be improved?

As they say – practice your plan and don’t change anything race day. For most of the latter months of training I over-executed my race nutrition during training events on longer rides and any ride + run days, following a consistent carbs + gel every 45 minutes like clockwork. Race day, I instead concentrated my full nutrition into liquid Roctane which meant my nutrition would only come in via additional hydration. I ended up needing to limit hydration so I pivoted to gels I kept in my bike’s bento box as backup should I lose the bottle on bumpy terrain or drop it during a refill.

How?

I either should practice the concentrated liquid Roctane or just be prepared to pivot as above should my hydration needs change. I had adequate supplies and ended up without any issues so I will keep this as a “living document” that I can act upon in the moment.

What was your hydration plan for the race?

Hydration plan was to use on course fluids for refills as needed dictated by historically hot weather. Race morning, I consumed an unplanned coffee ~2 hours pre-swim after breakfast. Pre-race I had to use the facilities four times in a short time losing the previous days hydration. Despite this, I still lined up for the swim wishing I’d gone a fifth time. I lost the focus on this in the swim and exited the water with the urgent sensation returned. This came and went on the bike with varying degrees of discomfort and a distaste for consuming additional liquids. I did take a bottle handoff and refilled my hydration torpedo and consumed half after depleting the original fill.

How well did you execute the plan?

I had no “GI” nor cramping issues outside of the strong desire to urinate which persisted through the finish line. I almost stopped several times on the run but refused the impact to race time.

Could the plan be improved? How?

I may need to track my day prior hydration consumption in a more controlled manner as I may have overdone it somehow, or otherwise the use of salt tabs helped pull in additional hydration which was held onto until race morning directly prior to the race. I may also limit hydration consumption the night prior to a particular hour.

What was your pacing strategy for the race?

Pacing strategy to self-seed slightly slower than anticipated swim time. My CSS shows as 1:34 but I’ve held 1:2x during training at cruisy RPE so planned on executing this by feel at around that pace. The ride was to be at 270-280W and hills by feel not to exceed far beyond 320W. The run was to be 9-10min/mi at 270W or 9:30 min/mi.

How well did you execute the strategy? (List your mile/lap splits, if applicable)

Execution deferred to gut instincts and by feel vs. strict pacing.

I should have taken better advantage of the swim current but otherwise executed perfect pacing in effort. It was a B1, breathe-every strong effort.

On the bike, I held back a touch due to confidence in pacing strategy not in inability to complete it but in potential for cramping with subsequent run at race pace for full race distance, having never completed 56 + 13.1 at race effort sequentially. I had cramped during a training session leading up to race week which prompted this question in confidence.

The run exceeded pacing strategy and due to low RPE I held it. I also chose to wear “super shoes” I had not extensively trained in due to pronation issues early in the season causing pain and switching to stability shoes for the vast majority of training. I made the decision to try these once ahead of the race and use them on race-day with the knowledge it may hurt during or after the race due to a major impact on turnover at speed. It was uncomfortable with varying degrees of pain and was the limiting factor in pushing the pace further as RPE was very low and I felt as though pace was a non-issue, but feet/ankle issue was very evident. I muscled through the pain when hurting but otherwise didn’t feel the need for anything beyond a gel out of precaution on the run having changed up my nutrition strategy. I used ice in my tri suit and on my head alternating as needed at aid stations.

  • Swim: 29:37 (1:25/100yd avg)
  • T1: 4:21
  • Bike: 2:23:05 (23.4 / 260W avg)
  • T2: 2:58
  • Run: 1:45:27 (8:07 min/mi avg)

What do your splits show about your execution?

That swim was good for a still-water swim, but my navigational skill gaps extend beyond swimming straight, as even when I do there is more to learn. I had a good bike, but had I held my targets I’d likely have taken best bike split in AG which would have been memorable for a first race and I can’t get that back. Run shows that I need to revisit shoe strategy and explore any other limiting factors.

What decisions did you make before or during the race that helped your performance?

Pivoting to gel nutrition aided in over-hydration issue.

The shoe decision seemingly drastically impacted my run times positively.

Asking more about bike aid stations (first time having them), hand-offs and run aid-stations best practices (use of ice) left the decision-making mid-race to a minimum which helped a ton.

What decisions did you make before or during the race that did not help your performance?

The decision to forgo bringing recovery aids (theragun/normatec sleeves) left me struggling to overcome sore legs and shaky confidence in pushing bike leg to known potential, with a foam roller at local fitness center helping but not resolving.

The decision to use super-shoes while positively impacting pace also was a limiting factor in pushing further due to pain in ankles. Doing so last-minute also impacted T2 as I had not prepped with cord laces and instead had (tied that had to be untied) shoes waiting for me that did not slip on easily and finicky folded tongues and slow to lace-up. I also had to fully stop and re-tie once.

Anything else about the race, positive or negative, you feel is important?

  • Good – I crushed my goal pace. I’ll never forget that.
  • Mix – I was not passed by a single individual on the bike during this race or others so far. This makes me wonder if my self-seeding strategy is to my advantage or some more head-to-head competition would help me. I had one such experience in the Medford Lakes sprint which pushed my paces to stay ahead (AG seeded, not self). I’m never seeing the top of the field on the bike leg if not first and did drop 7 in rankings over the run as I have room for improvement there, although seeding wouldn’t change the latter. Food for thought.
  • Bad – coming into T2, a competitor came in behind me a few bikes over intentionally threw a towel over my stuff which threw me for a bit in terms of already struggling to get my shoes on and mentally distracted me from my race for a minute or two. He was quite curt with our other neighbors pre-race during morning transition setup so quite a personality. The only major negative individual of the day besides another irritated that he was passed on bike.
  • Bad – I could not find comfort on the saddle and was constantly fidgeting. I usually find my tri saddle to be the most comfortable for long rides but on this day my seat bones were not finding their place. This very well could have been one of the major contributors to holding back on output.
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