2010 Miami Ironman 70.3 Race Report
I couldn't be happier with my race this weekend at the new Miami Ironman 70.3. This was a great experience for several reasons. First, after a rough go of things in Augusta back in September, my 7th place finish here in Miami was just the result I was looking for in t large and tough international field. I also felt very strong all day across all three disciplines despite the challenging course conditions. This really boosted my confidence going into Ironman Cozumel later this month. I was just as strong at the end of each segment as I was at the beginning which tells me that my fitness is spot on for the Ironman. I entered this race after a huge 4-week Ironman-specific training block, so to be able to perform well in a half-Ironman without specifically training for it was encouraging. Finally, it was a great weekend with family and friends! My parents and sister all came to the race, so I relished the time with my family.
The race Miami Ironman 70.3 race itself had some major issues. Several of them were inexcusable for a race whether it was a first-time race or not. It has the potential to be a top-notch race in the Ironman 70.3 series, but major flaws on the event execution overshadowed some of the good features of the race. If Ironman really wants to charge its current fees to age-groupers, then it has the obligation to deliver a top-notch product or risk losing its business. The details of the issues I had with the race will be mixed in with my race experiences below.
The venue for the race, smack-dab in the middle of downtown Miami was really fun. To have a race of this scope in a major city is both challenging and exciting. I was feeling pretty good going into this race, after giving myself about five days of easy recovery training following my big Ironman training block. The race venue was really spectator friendly in terms of viewing the swim and run. Also, being downtown, after we went out on the bike, there were plenty of cafes and restaurants for spectators as they waited for us to come back from the bike. Many of the races that are hosted in parks far from civilization keep spectators trapped without good food, drink, and rest options.
Race issue #1 – going into the swim start. First, the race officials said nothing to the professionals in the pro meeting the day before about the new post-Sept 1 swimsuit legality rules. As a consequence, as we lined up for the swim start, there were guys with illegal suits!! We actually had to show the refs that guys were wearing banned suits. I don't like tattling on my competition, but I'm not going to let someone have an illegal advantage over me. After we pointed out the suits, the refs made them remove the illegal suits. If Ironman is going to make rule changes on us, they had better be able to enforce them! I had my new Ironman-legal speedsuit from Xterra Wetsuits, so I was all set!
Race issue #2 – The race production staff had the male professional swim wave slated to start at 6:52AM. The problem with this is that one week before daylight savings time kicks in, ITS STILL PITCH BACK AT THAT TIME. Apparently no-one thought to look up sunrise (at 7:30am that day) before planning the event. They delayed our start by a whopping 8 minutes which did almost nothing for us. As we jumped in the pitch-black water, it might as well have been 2am. This was not only bad for us because we couldn't see the buoys, but it is also a safety issue. It was so dark, we couldn't see the swim buoys AT ALL. As we treaded water, the guys started talking about protesting and getting out of the water until we could see, but then the race official just made us start before we could organize our strike. It was so dark, that my buddy swimming in 1st or 2nd position said the only way he knew where to go was that the lead kayak had a light on the back and they just followed the light. It was bad enough that we had to leave at a time where we swam against the peak tide making all of our swims about 5 min slow, but to do it in the pitch-black was just plain stupid. Poor planning by the race production.
Despite what my swim time showed, I actually swam pretty well. I felt strong and in control. I also stuck with a group of about 5-6 guys, a few of whom normally out-swim me by quite a bit. Because it was so dark, I faught extra hard to stay with the group, because I wouldn't have had any clue what direction to swim! I know that I'm going to put in a great swim in Cozumel in a few weeks. After exiting the water, and getting on the bike, I saw my parents and they told me that I was in somewhere between 21-23rd place. I don't know how many guys actually started the race. The start list had about 50 guys and I think about 30 or so showed up to race. Right away on the bike my legs felt really good.
I found Lewis Elliot in the group I swam with. I had never met him in person, but from looking at past results, I knew that he and I were a pretty good match on the bike. As I passed him, I told him to come with me and we could work together. We rode together for about the first 35-40 miles, legal distance of course. We caught and passed several groups of guys and kept moving ourselves up in the ranks. I felt really strong and was biking hard, but again I felt like I was in control and wasn't putting in a deficit. Lewis got caught when I passed a group of about 5 guys and didn't make the jump back to me, so the last 20 miles or so I was completely alone. I biked really strong and my Quintana Roo Cd 0.1 felt fast and comfortable.
Race issue #3 – being an urban bike course, they designed one with 45 turns in 56 miles. I've never been known for my bike handling skills, so this was a disadvantage to me, but I didn't mind that so much because everyone had the same course to ride. My issues were with the course safety. First with all of those turns, only about 10 were actually marked with signs as to the direction of the turn. Approaching each turn, you would see a wall of cones and a cop. Every time, I'd have to hit the breaks and ask the cop which direction to turn. This is UNACCEPTABLE! There should be a sign showing the direction of the turn at EVERY SINGLE TURN! Then, many of the roads had potholes, cracks, and raised or depressed manholes, all of which are biking hazards. Not one was marked for us with paint or chalk. Again a major safety issue. I had one friend hit a hole in the road on a turn and wreck on her bike. Most importantly, traffic was a constant issue. The police did a great job, the best they could do controlling traffic at the intersections, but with 56 miles through the city, there were confused cars getting onto the course. I had two close calls with cars turning onto the course. In one instance the cop had to basically jump in front of the car and pound on its hood to get it to stop, or it would have hit me. If Ironman is going to continue to expand, bike safety HAS TO BE #1. Someone could have gotten hit out there on the bike. Again, the police did a great job and I was impressed with how much of the traffic they did control well given the circumstances.
Race issue #4 – Water on the bike. We were told that there would be 3 water bottle hand-up stations on the bike at miles 15, 30, and 45. This was not the case. I believe there were only two. I skipped the first one because I had two of my own bottles of PowerBar Endurance Drink on my bike. My plan was to pick up bottles of water at miles 30 and 45 and get my calories from PowerBar gels I was carrying. The second station was not at mile 30. It was closer to mile 40. Then there wasn't a final water stop that I saw. I also heard that the water stops ran out of water for the age-groupers in the race, INEXCUSABLE!! People pay a lot of money to race and you had better have enough water bottles for them on the bike. I ended up drinking about one less bottle of fluids on the bike, which I think hurt me a bit later on the run. But when there wasn't a mile 45 water bottle station that you were planning on, what can you do?
Coming into transition, I felt good. I saw only a few bikes on the rack, so I knew I had moved up a lot of places on the bike. I moved from 21st out of the swim to 8th place starting the run! I had one of my better transitions. As I threw my bike on the rack and was putting on my shoes, I heard the race announcer say, “did you see the way he flipped his bike onto the rack just like you flip a pizza?!” That made me chuckle. I felt great running out of transition and for the first couple miles. Then we had to run the causeway bridge. I never mind hard run courses, but the causeway bridge was brutal. It had gotten really windy as the day wore on. The bridge is a giant hill so large boats and freighters can go beneath. The first couple times we ran over the bridge it wasn't bad. The directions where the wind was in our faces was pretty brutal. So we ran over this hill not 1 time, 2 times, 4 times, 6 times, but 8 TIMES! By the last few times every pro was almost in a shuffle. It was hard, but kind of fun.
I moved into 7th place about 6 or 7k into the run. The 6th place guy had about 3 minutes up on me. For the next 4 or 5 miles our paces held the same. Then in the last 3 or 4 miles I took his lead down to only one minute. I just ran out of real estate for 6th place. I was able to pick up my pace on that last 5k which again was encouraging for Ironman. All of the run times were a bit slow because of the hills, but I was really happy with my performance.
Race Issue #5 – Run aid stations! This is a big big no no for the race production staff how the water/aid stations were handled on the run. If I were PowerBar (the drink and nutrition sponsor), I would be very angry with how the aid stations were handled. The pro men were the first out on the run course. The were still setting up the water stops as we were coming by on the first loop. On our first loop, they only had water. Not the advertised PowerBar sports drink, no gels, no calories whatsoever. Luckily I grabbed an extra gel leaving transition and carried extra salt pills for the run because we only had water!!! Some guys were depending on getting calories and electrolytes from the PowerBar products on the course. But the race staff didn't have then out!! After I finished, I saw pallet upon pallet of the PowerBar sports drink sitting near the finish, but none was out on the course! By the second loop of the run, only two or three of the aid stations had sports drink, but still no gels! I heard later that the water stops ran out of water for the agegroupers in Miami (hot and humid)!! THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!! Lastly, each water stop had between 2-3 volunteers. The volunteers did their best, but when you have 3000 athletes running by, 2-3 people just can't hand out and fill up water quick enough. The agegroupers had to fill up their own water cups later in the race. Come on!
Race Issue #6 – Policing the run course. There were a lot of turns on the run course. Where it was legal, I ran the tangents. No one was policing to make sure runners stayed on their side of the turns. You have runners in both directions running the tangents and there were a lot of near collisions. ALSO, MY PARENTS WITNESSED A FEMALE PRO NEAR THE FRONT OF THE RACE CUTTING THE COURSE. They also stopped another female pro and a male pro from doing the same by standing at the turn yelling and blocking people cutting off 30 yards of a turn. No one was there to make sure people didn't cut across the grass of a turn rather than go around the cones. My parents didn't get the girl's number, but it's absolutely ridiculous that my parents as spectators had to help police the run course to make sure people didn't cheat!!
Overall, I was really happy with how I performed. I did have a fun time at the race and spending time with my family was great. I'm telling you the issues I saw with this race because I think that as Ironman expands, puts more people on courses, and charges more money for race entries, they have the obligation to put on first-class races. I'm not complaining about little things like t-shirts or finisher medals (those were cool BTW), but my complaints are about major game changers for the race and the SAFETY of the competitors. The issues I had were all about the planning and execution by the race production team. It was a great venue, a fun course, and great for spectators, all in a really cool city. This could really be an awesome race if they fix those issues and if so, I'd come back to the race in a heartbeat.
I really want to thank Little Caesars Pizza for their support of me and my racing this year. Their belief in me is so important for me be able to do what I'm doing in this sport. Jack and Adam's Bicycles in Austin are always there to help support me and my racing. Champion System Clothing provide me with the best race and training clothing. Quintana Roo's CD 0.1 is one fast machine. Xterra Wetsuits are providing me with the best wetsuits and speedsuits in the sport and Advanced Rehabilitation in Ausin helps to keep me healthy for training and racing. PowerBar and SBR Sports Inc's products are also a great help for racing and training. Also I want to thank my family and friends for their unending support for me. Without these people and sponsors, I would not be able to pursue this dream.