it would be a lot uglier, mainly because 4 weeks prior IRONMAN 70.3 OHIO, I “hit a wall”! I wasn’t feeling strong in everything I usually do for about 20 days, and my personal athletic trainer and my personal triathlon coach agreed and demanded me to take 7-10 days completely off from exercising. When I heard that, I had a mixture of sour and sweet feelings arising in me. I was scared to stop training and playing with that fine threshold line while I was aware that my body was asking me to rest, relax and regenerate. They told me I was in a catabolic state. Everything I was doing was just destroying all I had built in years of training. There was no more juice to squeeze while trying to reach that FTP % or that Pace Zone prescribed. So I embraced the moment patiently, and I rested.
I was sleeping 8-10 hours per night, taking a 30 minute to 1 hour nap every day. The worst part was cutting down calories! I was burning less than half the calories I used to burn! The healthier way to do so was to cut bread, pasta, wine and chocolate! Normally I eat very healthy. In my diet there is everything from pasta to bread, carrots to asparagus, wine to beer, dark chocolate to nuts. It was hard not to have my usual 2 glasses of wine at dinner and the after dinner dark chocolate.... but I had to do it! However my athletic trainer and my new coach helped expedite my recovery process.
But let’s talk about the actual race.....
Me, my mom, and my awesome daughters Asia and Alessia drove from Tampa, Fl to Delaware, OH. We stopped halfway in Chattanooga. We arrived in Ohio on Thursday afternoon to setup. The weather wasn’t bad, but on Friday it started to get hot.
On Friday morning, we went to Delaware State Park to check out T1 and practice swimming. The water was 80+ degrees, so too warm for wetsuit. It was dark and murky and it took me a while to acclimate before swimming. Thankfully, I had good company!
Nutrition taper started on Friday and on Saturday I was fully tapering fibers and following a strict diet.Delaware, OH, home of Ohio Wesleyan University, is a cute little town. It is a typical small college town with a main street area lined with shops and restaurants.
The expo was on the Selby Stadium campus. IM 70.3 Ohio had 2 transition zones. Transition 1 was by Delaware Lake at Delaware State Park. Transition 2 was inside Selby Stadium. Transition were far apart, and parking on T2 was hard to find; therefore logistic is very important. I suggest to attend the athlete briefing to make plans accordingly.
RACE DAY - Alarm 3 am. Breakfast and at race parking lot by 4:10 Am. We found the best spot close to the finish line at Selby Stadium.
Before going deep into the race recap, I have to share this weird episode that happened to me in T1. While I was setting up my transition, a race volunteer (he had the same T-shirt that every other volunteer were wearing) came up to me and said: “are you a good swimmer”? I said: “I am an okay swimmer. Why?” He said: “Would you please swim for this lady and her husband that had health issues and cannot swim today?” The lady was standing next to him and had the bike set up just close to mine. Instinctively I responded: “Yes I can help!” So he gave me the 2 timing chips which I put on my other ankle and said to give them back to them at the end of my swim at bike transition spot. When they left, I started thinking…. “Wait a second! I am an Ironman coach and this is not something normal. I have never heard of something like this.” So I walked to the race referee and asked confirmation. OMG! I was going to get DQ if I had swam with those chips. In my instinctive nature, I was just trying to help others, without thinking of the rules and consequences. I am so glad I woke up from my stupidity and avoided doing something that could get me disqualified!
1.2-mile Swim in bathwater
The swim took place in Delaware State Park Beach. It was in a murky lake. I could not see anything once my eyes were in the water. It was dark and brownish. I could not even see the time and pace on my Fenix. The rolling swim started at 7 am. I placed myself between the 35 and 40 min prediction time (That’s what I usually do when I feel good!) Due to the increased water temps, wetsuits were not legal for awards. The swim was in the form of a triangle with 2 right turns. It was very crowded. We were always within arms reach of someone. The course was narrow. Basically there were swimmers everywhere & the guards were closer to the buoys so it seemed like we didn’t have much room to swim. The people in front of us who were struggling were just lounging, kind of stopped in the water, or just going very slow….
The people behind us were trying to swim over us. I got swam over a couple of times. I tried to stay out of the crowd and stopped 3 times during the first 800 MT. All this made me very uncomfortable and slow. I could not find a good swim race pace until the second turn. However after the last turn, sighting was very hard because of the sun, and I found myself out of the course. I rounded the last buoy, made my way to my feet and I could finally look at my Garmin and I thought : “Oh Boy..I guess I’m super slow today. Whatever!” Yes…I jogged through the timing arch at 52:28, 12-18 minutes slower than I had thought.
In sum, my swim was a mess, but oh well, I had to finish strong anyway!
Bike- Head Down – Watts Up!
Knowing that I have never reached the peak for this race, I decided to execute the 56-mile bike course as moderate as possible, without burning out. The course was mostly flat. I averaged 23.9 mph for the first 22 miles on anything that anyone would consider a straight way. I was moving fast with the tail wind at only 70% FTP. I felt great, comfortable, and in control the whole time. I made sure to drink all my 3 bottles of nutrition (800 cal, 190 carbs, 1140 mg sodium, potassium 330 mg, protein 12 g) and to pee at least 2 times (I peed 3 times this time). After 1 hour we changed direction and we were going against the wind. Meanwhile the wind was getting stronger. My avg mph went down, but that was ok. I stayed in my limit to save it for the run.
After about 2 hours of straight lines, we hit the last 14 miles of the course. This was in stark contrast to the first 42 miles. The race director had saved all the hills, turns, and technical bits for the end joy. Riders got bunched up, descents were fast, and climbs were filled with some furiously passing. I wouldn’t call this a particularly fast course because of the number of turns towards the end. Also, the roads were open, so we had cars to deal with the majority of the time. There were several times that the riders were having to wait on cars, or a car would pass us, then have to slow down because they couldn’t get around the next group of riders and we’d have to brake to keep from running into the cars in front of us. Traffic got increasingly more congested as we were nearing town for T2. So as we were navigating the course and all the turns at the end, we were also fighting real traffic. It was very unsafe at times. However, as I rounded the last few turns and came into view of a sea of people, I knew I was just about done. I hit the ground running at the dismount line, and crossing the timing mat, I had made up some serious time on the bike. I managed to finish in 2:38:10 jumping from 71st to 9th position. Then, it was a mad hot dash to the racks. So I grabbed my run bag (that had been sitting there since the previous day) & realized that my shoes were burning hot too. Fun?!? It was upper 80s probably by the time I got off the bike. After grabbing my bottle, all I had on my mind was crushing this 2-loop half marathon.
Run Until You Cannot
My legs surprisingly felt fresh at this point. Sure, there was tons of adrenaline, but there was some legitimate freshness too. I knew I could run at least at 8:30 mph, but I started at 9:30 mph because it was hot. With that in mind, my tactic for the half marathon run was to walk 20 sec every water station while licking base salt, drinking water, and grabbing some ice. The run course was roughly 1 mile out to get to a loop. Runners would complete the loop (roughly 5.5 miles) twice, before returning on that 1 mile stretch back to Selby Stadium and the finish line.
That first mile was beautifully flat. I got to the loop and discovered my “flat” run was gone, and now I would contest a loop made up of a 2 mile incline, followed by a sharp descent and a small rolling hill before repeating. I managed to keep a pretty swift and consistent pace from mile 2-9, averaging right around 9:30 over that stretch. At this point I knew I could hold that pace but not faster. It was hotter. There was some shade and some breeze sometimes. A few nice people brought out water to spray on us or splash us. However, the aid stations weren’t as prepared for the heat as most IM events that I’ve done in the past. There was ice at maybe 3 or 4 spots over the 13.1 miles. I knew that even this time I wouldn’t meet my 8-8:30 avg goal (as I used to when I started IM 70.3), BUT, I was happy anyway because I was feeling good! My nutrition worked pretty well and I finally did not have any GI distress as in the past. I diligently followed my new nutrition plan that my new coach gave me….
I even peed once on the run. That did not happen since my IM 70.3 in Panama Country in 2014. I made it through 12 miles before my gluteus and lower back became tight as usual. However, I was still happy because in last few years this was already happening at mile 6. I trotted my way back towards Selby Stadium and managed a 2:06:38 run split. I use to be under 2 hours a couple of years ago and it is going to happen again very soon! My total nutrition on the run consisted of: 480 cal, sodium 1260 mg, carbs 117 g, potassium 350 g.
With a time of 5:45:49, I crossed the finish line.
Great race, great venue! Delaware, you did a good job at welcoming us! IM did a great job with the course and the locals were awesome and supportive!
However, shortly after beginning the bike portion of the race, there was a fatal and devastating incident with an athlete and a vehicle. She died instantly.
We hear of those incidents all the time and we never expect it to happen to us. The worst thing about it is that it can happen to anybody. We all should be always very cautious while riding on roads.
Anyway, it was a long weekend, and a tough one. The hours of training are long, the stress of life is real, but so is the determination to not quit. Certainly not now. I will always strive to become alway a better athlete and a better coach.
My full potential did not come out yet! But now it will! New Zealand World Championship slot I’’ll come get soon! It is a promise from a stubborn Italian! Also, a big thanks to my awesome sherpas (my daughters Asia and Alessia, and my mom Lia) for supporting me and following me around Delaware. I also want to thank my new coach for helping me nail my nutrition, which helped me feel great during the run. We have a long way to go to nail the numbers too!
Time for a day of rest, then back to it. We are traveling south with a few touristic spots such as Nashville and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Thanks to Delaware, OH for letting us invade your town.