I think it was some time in December 2010 that I decided to participate in the Ironman Syracuse 70.3 relay with my two friends Adrienne and Linh. We had several conversations about deciding who was going to swim, bike and run. It was decided that we were going to tackle the event that would be the most challenging for each of us.
Adrienne chose the swim because she wanted to prove to herself that she could increase her endurance in the swim portion to 1.2 miles. Linh wanted to master her cycling technique on her new bike that never arrived until 2 weeks prior to the event. And I wanted to overcome the nastiest and longest to heal injury (gluteus medius tear) that I have ever experienced in my running career, and be able to run 13.1 miles injury free.
It ended up that our selection strategy of our individual events was right on. Adrienne clocked the best swim times, Linh had the best bike times, and I had the best run times in the triathlons we participated in prior to the 70.3.
On Saturday, the three of us headed over to the Holiday Inn in Liverpool to pick up our race packet and t-shirts prior to setting up Linh’s new bike at the transition area at Jamesville Beach. In my opinion the expo was quite small and lame. I was anticipating hundreds of vendors like you see at marathon expos. The race t-shirts were also a disappointment. Our choices were the women’s extra small which would fit a chipmunk or the men’s medium that would have fit Frankenstein. We all decided to snag 3 of the last 4 extra small shirts available. As Tim Gunn from Project Runway would say, “Make It Work”.
We had some time to kill so we decided to fuel up at The Retreat in Liverpool. The blues burger with a double order of crispy french fries is just what I needed to stop the sounds of my growling stomach.
Once we got to Jamesville Beach everything went smoothly. I loved the fact that the race organizers reserve a spot with your race number stuck on the bike rack . This reservation assured no interference with others vying for the best bike placement. The numbers were also spaced out enough to prevent overcrowding and allowed ample space for transition gear.
Saturday was a little chilly as you can see I was wearing my knitted wristies to keep warm. I was hoping for warmer temperatures come Sunday. After racking Linh’s bike and taking several pre-race photos, it was time to say goodbye to the transition area and hello to my bed.
I was up earlier than the crack of dawn at 4:15am with my ride picking me up at 5:30am. With a 20 ounce coffee in one hand, I loaded my over packed gym bag into the trunk of Adrienne’s car and we were on our way to Jamesville Beach. We were all surprised that there was no traffic backed up as we entered the park.
The entire park was well-lit by the mobile field stadium lights which made is easy navigating from the parking lot to the transition area. All set up by 6:15am and nothing to do but wait.
The swim wave for the relay teams did not take their mark until 7:50 so the three of us walked down to the beach and analyzed the swim course. I can now admit that I fibbed to Adrienne that the 1.2 mile swim didn’t look that long. I was filled with anxiety just looking at the official buoys marking the course. But why, I have no idea, I was running. We all watched the professional swimmers and first few waves take off then it was time for Adrienne to put on her wetsuit and light blue swim cap.
I have to say that the Ironman organizers did a fantastic job with the start of the swim waves. The swim waves did not seem to be overcrowded and they waited 5 minutes between each wave. This allowed each wave to spread out and not to overlap with lots of body contact.
There were a total of 28 swimmers that started in the 7:50 women’s, men’s & coed relay team wave and everyone seemed to have enough room to spread out during the swim. Adrienne was back in no time and transferred the ankle timing chip to Linh by 9:05.
This was the toughest part of the day for me. Linh estimated that she would arrive back from the hilly 56 mile bike ride in 4-4 1/2 hours. I had an inkling that she would be back sooner than her estimated time but it still was a long time to wait.
Adrienne and I headed back to the car so I could eat and she could put on some warm clothes. All I kept thinking about is how this wait reminded me of sitting on the grass in front of the Hopkington High School for hours before the official start of the Boston Marathon. However, this time, I had the luxury of sitting on cushioned seats in a warm car so why was I complaining. Then all of a sudden we started to see the professional cyclists cruising by entering the park to start the last leg of the 70.3.
My goal was to get back to the transition area around 11:30 ish – just in case Linh pulled a FAST one and arrived back in 3 hours. I’m so glad that we got back to transition because she peddled in just a little after 12:30. Linh sprinted up to me and transferred the timing chip to my ankle so fast that I didn’t know what hit me.
Now it was my turn to make my teammates proud. It was up to me to finish up the last 13.1 miles of the 70.3 equation. The run course was hilly but very scenic and lined with enthusiastic spectators cheering all of the runners on. I really enjoyed the frequent aid stations and gulped down a few colas along the way. I felt like a professional athlete at mile 6 and 12 where my husband handed me my very own bottled Gatorade.
My teammates were cheering me on and I entered the park for the last quarter mile of the run – finishing in 1:56. I really needed this encouragement because my legs were on fire after all the ups and downs of the course.
Our total time for 70.3 was 6 hours 47 minutes! Wanna 70.3 sum did it! Not too shabby for first timers in the 70.3 relay event.
In 70.3 summary, what a blast I had at the Ironman Syracuse 70.3. I would definitely do it all over again. That is of course the relay- I don’t think I’m ready to conquer 70.3 solo yet. Never say never, right?