Last Sunday, September 14, I raced Rev3 Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. Since this is going to be the longest blog post of all time, I will cut right to the chase for the skimmers. The race was good. I PRd by about 37:00 minutes, although this was a much easier course than Syracuse. My splits, as compared with Syracuse, are below:
Swim: 46:52 (Syracuse: 46:56)
Bike: 3:05:01 (3:33:49)
Run: 2:09:55 (2:18:18)
Total time: 6:10.44 (6:47:06)
Now, on to the details. This was my second 70.3 of this summer and also my second 70.3 ever. I completed Ironman Syracuse 70.3 in June and had a solid race there, but I worked hard over the summer, particularly on my cycling, and had slightly higher expectations for Poconos.
Leading up the race, I think both my coach and I thought I could have a good race. But, that being said, I have had a lot of bad races (see, e.g., my last three marathons), and that is always looming. You never know when something – or many things – can go wrong, despite your best training, planning, and preparation.
On the Thursday before the race, I headed up to New York to visit my family, since they live only about 90 minutes from the race venue. I’ve done several New York races over the years, incorporating them into family visits, and it has always worked out well. Thursday, of course, was September 11 and I was able to attend a small gathering at the local firehouse with my brother, who is an FDNY fireman. If anything puts racing goals in perspective, it’s this.
On Friday, I went to lunch with my brother and parents and spent time with my niece and nephew. It was a great couple of days. On Saturday, I did a short a.m. shake out run at my parents’ house (I joined my dad and his walking buddies at the high school track. They walk 2 miles on the track every day!) and then headed to the Poconos to meet up with my TeamHPB teammate, Leslie.
Leslie is a very experienced racer and it was awesome meeting up with her the day before the race. She had an exact plan of what we would do when and spending the day with her – and busy completing various tasks – helped me stay more calm than I would have on my own. Plus, she is very funny and we had a great time chatting. It was actually freezing cold and raining and basically miserable, so the company really helped. We picked up our packets, we swam, we rode, and we checked our bikes. We checked into our hotel rooms and had dinner with some of Leslie’s friends. After dinner, I laid out all of my stuff and was in bed by 8:30 p.m.
My alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and I will spare you all of the details, but suffice it to say I had a rough morning, including, but not limited to, getting very lost driving to the race site. I was so lost I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to race at all. I did eventually get to T2 and met Leslie there. We set up our run stuff and then boarded buses to get to T1.
It was cold and windy at T1. I think the temperature was in the high 40s. For once, I was actually looking forward to getting into the water, because the water, at around 70 degrees, was actually warmer than the air.
Swim: If you have read any of my previous race blogs, you know how my swim went, so I will spare you the details. It was a slight variation on the classic “Stephanie freaks out swim start,” as I actually started swimming okay and then stopped to freak out, as opposed to being frozen from the gun. I finally did get moving and actually felt pretty good in the water once I did. So, I will take that as a positive improvement.
I had a very slow transition – around 6 minutes. My hands and feet were numb when I got out of the water and there were no wetsuit strippers at this race. Getting the wetsuit off was a struggle, and then I wanted to take some extra time to try to get as dry as possible before getting on my bike because of the cold.
Bike: I actually don’t have a ton to say about the bike. I will say that the roads were not closed to traffic for a large portion of the bike course and this made passing very dangerous. At the beginning of the bike, where things are always more congested (here, the Olympic distance race and half shared the course for the first 12 miles), this was a bit frustrating. Between the cars and not wanting to draft (I am paranoid about ever getting a drafting penalty – it’s the goody two shoes in me shining through), I felt a bit paralyzed at times. Once things opened up, I enjoyed the course. It was mostly flat, although there were some challenging hills at the end, and very scenic.
I had moments of feeling great and only a few small slumps where I felt tired. During one of those, someone rode by me wearing an FDNY kit and then gave me a mental boost.
I had one mechanical problem right at the end of the ride. With only a few miles to go, I dropped my chain and it got stuck between the big and small rings. I spent more time than I would have liked fixing it and it happened while I was riding a hilly section of the course, which meant losing all of my momentum. It was a stupid mistake on my part, but live and learn.
With all of the longer rides I have done since Syracuse, I actually felt fairly comfortable for almost the entire bike leg. Only at the very end of the ride did my back start to bother me. I was happy to get off the bike at 56 miles, but I still felt relatively good, considering. My goal pace was around 16 mph, so I was quite happy that I was right around 18 mph for the ride.
I felt like I was moving quite slowly in transition, but physically, I felt good. I was excited to get out on the run.
Run: I started the run a little on the slow side, but I know from training that I can speed up a lot during the course of a run as my legs loosen up, so I wasn’t particularly concerned. The first part of the run was on pavement, with several rolling hills. I saw Leslie and, of course, she was already coming back about to finish her race! I cheered for her as she went by.
I turned off the pavement somewhere around mile 4 and onto a gravel trail. I was concerned about this, since I don’t have a lot of experience running on trails and while I understand this is a better surface for my knees, the gravel actually hurt my feet. The good news was that this section was shaded and mostly flat. It was a little tough seeing everyone already coming back, but I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other.
As I neared the turnaround, the trail was getting more lonely. I struggled a bit, especially after the turnaround. I thought of anything I could to keep myself moving.
I also made sure I was keeping on top of my nutrition. I did not wear a hydration belt for the run, as aid stations were planned for every 1-2 miles. I must say that they felt farther apart than that, but maybe not. I made sure to get water at each stop, to drink it carefully to make sure I really got a good amount into my system (as opposed to spilling it), and to time my gels accordingly.
Soon enough I was back on the pavement and headed up a large hill, thanking goodness for the dreaded hill repeats workout Alyssa gives me from time-to-time. From that workout, I knew I would do fine getting to the top of the hill. Then, the rollers re-appeared and my legs were really starting to ache. My quads and hamstrings were not happy. I had realized on the trail that I was hovering right around 10:00 min/mile pace (I didn’t have my pace displayed on my Garmin because I’ve done better just focusing on time on long runs). After I realized this, my goal was just to stay as close as I could to 10:00 min/mile pace, which is also right around my old stand alone half marathon PR of 2:11. As I would go up the hill, I would go over 10:00 – 10:01, 10:02 – as I would go down the hill, I would go back under – 10:00, 9:59. I tried to think about having quick feet.
I ended up finishing the run in what would have been a stand alone half marathon PR time for me as recently as the beginning of March. Despite that, I actually wasn’t totally sure how I felt about the race when I crossed the finish line, since it was unquestionably an easier course than Syracuse. But, I immediately got positive feedback from Leslie about my bike split and I had a zillion texts from my husband waiting on my cell phone saying how proud he was and how he couldn’t believe my times. Something about that positive feedback made me think my day was actually pretty good, even with the easier course.
So, all in all, a good day at Rev3 Poconos. I was able to show myself that I have improved as an athlete over the course of the season and that all of my hard work is paying off. I am very happy to end my tri season on a positive note. Now, I’m turning my focus to the Richmond Marathon, which will take place on November 15.
Of course, I need to thank Alyssa, MooMotion, and my husband for all of their support not only for this race, but also for this entire tri season. It’s been a great year, but next year will be even better!