Syracuse 70.3 – I did it!

If you’re reading this, you probably already know I finished my first ever 70.3 on Sunday, since I have been talking about it a lot on Twitter and Facebook (#sorrynotsorry). But, I’m just now getting to sit down and write about it in any detail. It was an awesome day, but of course a tough day, too. There were lots of ups and downs – literally and figuratively – but finishing was amazing and something I will always be proud of.

Before I get down into the weeds of my race report, I absolutely have to thank my amazing coach, Alyssa Godesky, for getting me to the finish line; my husband, Jon, for putting up with me (and my anxiety leading up to race day) and for his Twitter updates throughout the day (more on that later); and MooMotion for the awesome race kit!

Pre-Race: Leading up to the race, I did have some general time goals in mind, however, my main goal was just to finish strong. My training had been going well, although I did have a couple of little question marks heading into race day – a strained groin about a week before the race and some slow, sluggish workouts during taper. But, generally, I felt good and positive going into the race.

We drove up to Syracuse the Friday before the Sunday race. This being my first half and first really big triathlon, I was very intimidated by the people I saw in the days leading up to the race, at registration and at the host hotel. Everyone looked super fit and badass and everyone had really fancy bikes! Alyssa has told me before not to worry about that kind of stuff, so in the hours before the race, I really focused on just having the best race I could have. One of my triathlete friends had tweeted me before the race: “you’ll be fine. drink your drink, eat your snax and smile, it will all be ok” and that really stuck with me. I just needed to do what I needed to do, relax, enjoy it, and not think about anything or anyone else.

Race Day: On race morning, we were up bright and early. The hubs was grumpy because he hates mornings, but we got on the road on time. Traffic was a little backed up to get into the race venue, but not awful. I got set up in transition and was ready to go!

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Swim: I was in one of the later swim waves (the first wave was 7:00, but I didn’t start until 8:05), so there was a lot of waiting to get started with the swim. Luckily, the wait was on a nice beach and I was able to see Jon before the start. I also liked that we got to slowly enter the water and didn’t have to jump or dive in. It allowed us to spread out and gave me a bit of time to get used to the water temperature, which was a plus.

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If you have followed this blog at all you know open water swimming is not my cup of tea and while I would love to tell you I had some kind of major mental breakthrough at this race, I did not. The gun went off. I tried to start to swim. I stopped and treaded water. I doggy paddled. And, then, before even reached the first buoy, I asked a guy in a kayak if I could hold on to his kayak for a second. I told him I was fine, but that I was just really nervous and needed a second. It was mortifying, but I didn’t know what else to do. I got my sh*t together and slowly started to swim. Buoy one. Buoy two. They went by very slowly. Very, very slowly. Soon enough the fast guys from the group behind me had caught up to me and were starting to pass. It’s funny because the really good people aren’t the issue. They move around slow swimmers like me. It was more the middle of the pack guys in that group that just ran right into me. In any case, I got through the swim, which was all I needed to do.

I got out of the water in 46 something – much to my shock, because I was sure I was going to be over an hour – just over my 45 minute target time for the swim.

This was the first race I’ve done where the volunteers rip off your wetsuit. It was actually kind of funny. I have to say that all of the volunteers were awesome and took their jobs very seriously, which was great. I tried to thank them all along the way.

It was a long barefoot run toward T1 and I was scanning the crowd, not sure if I would see Jon. I saw him, gave him a thumbs up so that he would know I was okay, and he commented on my “great time!” My official swim time was 46:56.

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Bike: I haven’t done any other 70.3s, so I admittedly don’t have a lot to compare this to. But, I have done other running races and triathlons and this was a hilly course.

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I was also (thankfully) a beautiful course. It was very rural – lots of farmland and barns, some cows, not a lot of cars. At one point you ride along a lake. Gorgeous!

One of my Team HPB teammates had commented on Facebook that I should “remember to smile” and I did on the bike. I was like Miss America out there smiling and waving and thanking volunteers. I was really trying to soak it all in.

My favorite part of the bike course was the older lady at around mile 5-6 (a very hilly section, as you can see above) yelling “only 50 miles to go!” I honestly think she was trying to help.

Meanwhile, Jon had taken over my Twitter account for the day and was providing not only updates on my race, but also insightful commentary on the pro race, in addition to updates about his day.

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Note the 9 favorites on the vodka tweet. In any case, the last 20 miles on the bike were tough. I was getting uncomfortable and I knew I was behind my goal time, but at the same time I knew I was working hard and didn’t want to totally destroy myself on the bike, since the run was still to come. So, I was actually happy and trying to do some positive self-talk about my solid ride.

As I rode back to transition, I had to ride by runners already out on the run course, which I have to admit was somewhat discouraging. It’s hard to know those people are so much closer to finishing than you are. But, I knew I just needed to put those thoughts aside and focus on my race – a theme of the day! I saw Jon and gave him a thumbs up and big smile so that he would know I was okay. Final bike time: 3:33:49.

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Run: I got off the bike feeling good. My legs were stiff and I was a little sore, but mentally felt great. I was ready to have a really good run. My first mile was a 9:40 something or other, which is exactly where I wanted to be. Good, I thought. Mile two was a bit slower, but not terrible. Then, I came face-to-face with Syracuse’s Mount Kilimanjaro (see below). I think there may actually have been snow on the top of that peak.

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Once I saw just how steep the hill was, I knew the run was going to be a struggle. It was also getting warm. To add insult to injury, the run was two laps and you had to run past the big Ironman finisher chute to start the run and to start the second lap. I could smell the food for the finishers, but even starting lap two knew I still had over an hour to go to finish the race. I was feeling pretty crappy and had threatened to kill Jon if he took any pictures of me for Twitter on the run.

Despite going into the race really not wanting to walk any of the run, I’ll admit I did. Mile ten was a 13 plus minute mile. At that point, I had a decision to make. Either I was going to walk the rest of the way to the finish, or I was going to suck it up and run. I’m happy to say I did the latter. My fastest run split of the day was the last. My final run time was 2:18:18, which is actually faster than my slowest stand alone half marathon. Even though I walked, I was able to finish strong and that was my main goal for the day. I was so happy to finish.

Jon took this photo of me after the race and I think you can see the pure joy on my face. He tweeted it with the caption “BOOM!” Boom indeed!!

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11 thoughts on “Syracuse 70.3 – I did it!

  1. Great job Stephanie! Amazing accomplishment. So excited we’ll both be tackling the course at Rev3 together – and this time with a 70.3 already under our respective belts so a big confidence boost.

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