Well, it appears I decided to take a 2 week hiatus from blogging. I apologize for the long absence, but vacation and then catching up at home has consumed my time. Here is a long overdue review of Ironman 70.3 Kansas.
Kansas, like many Ironman events, is a Sunday morning race so travel to the event is pretty flexible. I decided to travel up to Lawrence on Friday to settle into my hotel room, check-in at the race site, and give my legs/hips a chance to loosen up after the drive. Lawrence is about a 5.5 hour drive from Oklahoma City, manageable, but not enjoyable. I got into Lawrence about 2 PM so I checked in at the hotel and then headed out to the race site to check in and do some shopping. The "expo" area is out at Clinton Lake State Park and is an outdoor expo. The expo is actually nothing more than athlete check-in, the Ironman store, and a few sponsor tents. If you need to do some shopping for gear, I'd recommend heading into town to one of the cycling shops or plan on having everything you need before you arrive. Athlete check-in was pretty seemless on Friday afternoon which was what I expected. We received a Kansas 70.3 sling backpack, a white Kansas 70.3 tech shirt, and some sample products. Nothing out of the ordinary but it's always nice to get a free training shirt. After check-in I meandered through the Ironman store and bought an event shirt and a visor. I passed on anything else, because my budget is pretty strapped right now. I did like the bike jerseys though. Friday night was pretty relaxing. I ordered some pasta from a local Italian joint and relaxed in my hotel room. I tried to go to bed early, but my mind was pretty occupied with the weather forecast and making contingency plans if the forecast panned out. The forecast called for an 80% chance of thunderstorms so I was really concerned the race would be shortened and/or canceled. Thankfully the forecast proved wrong and the weather turned out pretty decent on race day. On Saturday I took my time getting out of bed. I got some coffee, poked around the room, and then went for a quick 30 minute bike ride on the trail system in Lawrence before taking my bike out to T1. One note for all of you planning on doing Kansas in the future, T1 and T2 are separate areas which are about a 1/2 mile apart. It's not a bad thing, just something to make a mental note about when you are packing your race bags, planning on post-event gear pick-up, and setting up your transition areas. Also, the parking area for participants is about a 1/4 mile from T2 and the finish area so you have to walk or ride your bike down to T1 when you are checking your bike in on Saturday. After setting up my bike and covering my bottles, handlebars, and seat with plastic bags to shield from the predicted storms, I headed back to the hotel to try to get some rest. Saturday night's sleep, if you can call it that, was pretty brief. I had an awful time trying to go to bed and woke up at 3:15 to get going for the race. When I woke up on Sunday, the radar showed a line of storms moving towards Lawrence, but thankfully the complex fell apart as it moved closer and the race started on-time and without a hitch. Someone above was smiling down on the sport of triathlon that morning.
As you all know, the swim is my weakness in the sport of triathlon. I went in with a loose goal of 45 minute swim and I ended up coming out of the water just under 45 minutes. I did think I could swim a faster time, and given the conditions, I think I do have a faster swim in me. The swim is a deep water start. You make your way into the water from the loading docks and tread water for a few minutes before the gun sounds. I placed myself towards the back of the pack because I'm not a big fan of fighting with the good swimmers at the start. The first part of the swim was pretty uneventful. After we swam for about 5-10 minutes, we made our way out of the cove and hit the open part of the lake. It was unbelievably choppy. The buoys were being blown off course and most swimmers were being blown off course. I know I felt like I had to swim at an angle to swim straight. It made for a pretty tough swim because it felt like you were fighting the wind/waves to stay in position. I also got caught by a few of the faster swimmers from the wave behind me and they were pretty aggressive. A couple of guys swam over me and I made sure they got a quick kick from me in the process. It makes me mad when people purposely swim over you. When I come up on a swimmer, I always go around. It never crosses my mind to just swim over the top of someone. After fighting the wind/waves/misplaced buoys, I made my way out of the water. Note to self and anyone else racing in the future, be cautious at the ramp out of the water. It's very rocky and can cause some issues getting out.
T1 is pretty tight due to the location. When you have athletes in the area changing out of wetsuits and putting on their cycling gear it can get pretty congested. You really have to be conscious of where you are running with your bike. I had a decent transition, but nothing great. I highly recommend using your morning clothes bag and stuffing all of your gear into it before you leave T1. The race crew will transport your gear back to T2 if you put it in the gear bag. It saved me a walk back to T1 after the race and I was very, very happy I didn't have to make that trek post-race. It probably cost me 30 seconds or so, but it was well worth it! I had a few issues getting on my bike (odd, because that doesn't usually happen), but I'll chalk it up to the loopy feeling you have coming out of the water. It took me a few miles to shake off the swim-head.
The bike course in Kansas is a one loop course through the countryside. Most of the roads were in good condition and open to vehicular traffic. I started the bike with the goal of 3 hours and 15 minutes. I wanted to keep my cadence at 90 rpm at all times and try to keep my legs semi-fresh for the run. I knew going in my run would be my strength so I just needed to not screw it up on the bike. Kansas is a rolling hill course with very few flat stretches. I was constantly shifting and coming in and out of aero position. None of the hills were daunting and required me to come out of the saddle so I think this course was a great prep for Louisville. My bike stayed pretty steady and consistent throughout the ride and I generally didn't get passed by other riders. I think this was primarily due to the fact we were one of the last swim waves, but it was still nice to not get blown off the course. As far as race conditions, there was a south wind of 15-20mph which is nothing new for me. I heard quite a few people complaining about the wind post-race, but 15mph winds are a good day in Oklahoma. I know I cuss the wind a lot in my training, but it really does prepare me well for windy conditions on race day. Vehicular traffic was a concern on several occasions which I thought was odd. There were several times when we had to pass cars on downhills so we wouldn't lose momentum. There was also an instance where a triathlete and a guy driving a truck got into a yelling match over something. All I saw were wild gestures by both. I made sure to stay back and give them plenty of room to work out their problems. I don't really understand why people choose to drive on a road littered with cyclists, but I'm sure they ask the same question about why we block their roads. The bike ended up going pretty well for me. I came out of the bike portion of the course about 11 minutes ahead of schedule and I felt really good coming off the bike. I will have to say that I got kind of bored on the bike. I was definitely ready for a change of pace when I hit T2. I'll have to work on my focus and keeping my mind occupied on my long rides the next 2 months.
T2 was quick and seamless for me. Nothing special to note here. The racks are pretty spread out and I felt like I had plenty of room for all my gear. My achilles was starting to show some signs of wear at this point which was of some concern, but I was pretty sure I could make it through the run without too much of an issue.
The run was a 2-loop course through the campground area surrounding the lake. It's a winding course with only one short hill that you hit twice on the run. The rest of the run was flat and there were a few areas of shade, but not much. My only complaint on the run course was that I had to get 3 miles into the run before there was a port-a-potty available. I had to pee really, really bad coming off the bike so the first few miles were pretty interesting. My goal going into the run was 1 hour and 50 minutes. I ended up finishing in 1:48:59. I was very, very happy with my run. I felt really strong coming off the bike and the first few miles I had my usual struggle with keeping my pace in check. The aid stations were well-spaced and the volunteers were great in calling out what they were offering. I did a great job of keeping my miles in the 8:00 to 8:20 range until I hit the hill for the second time. Coming out of the hill at mile 9/10 definitely cooked my legs. My mile splits for the last 3 miles were closer to 8:45 and I definitely felt like I was working a lot harder. The best part of the run for me was counting all of the people I was passing. I only got passed by a few people the entire run and I was constantly making up ground. I knew my run would help my spot in the overall rankings, but I didn't realize I'd gain over 150 spots on the run. All in all, the run course was fun, but I'd recommend an earlier bathroom break for athletes and more music. I liked hitting the sections of the course where campers were blaring music and cheering on the athletes.
The finishing chute wasn't anything too crazy, but seeing the finish line is always a welcome relief after a long day on the course. I ended up finishing in 5:44:25 which was much better than I expected and I was ecstatic for my first 70.3 finish. The best part of the day was getting my medal from Chrissie Wellington. She's such a tremendous athlete and ambassador of the sport. It was an honor to briefly meet her and share my sense of accomplishment with her. After my medal, I made my way to get some fluids/food and received a nice finisher's hat. I made my way directly to the ice bath/massage area and enjoyed cooling off in a tub full of ice. It never felt so good to submerge myself in ice cold water. The post-race nutrition left a lot to be desired, but I did appreciate the free BBQ sandwich and drinks. I would have preferred something different, but food is food when you are starving.
Overall I was extremely happy with my first 70.3 experience. I ended up putting together a race that exceeded my expectations and I really enjoyed racing this distance. I definitely see myself doing several more of these races in the future. I felt the training load leading up to this race was very manageable and is something that I'll introduce into my rotation as I progress as an endurance athlete. I know have a lot of room for improvement on the swim and bike so I'm excited to see how much I can improve. I would definitely recommend this race to those of you looking for a June 70.3 race. Although it was my first 70.3, I feel like having Chrissie Wellington return 3 years in a row is a pretty good indication of the quality of this race. If she keeps coming back, it must be a race worthy of consideration. Now it's time to turn my focus to Louisville and try to survive the next 2 months. I gained even more confidence in my fitness level at this race and can't wait to see where this crazy world of endurance sports takes me. Endurance sports are hard to explain to people who haven't participated in them. All I know is that I'm happier, healthier, and more confident than I have ever been in my 29 years of life. To me, the hours of training are worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears I put into it.