Race Report: 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 Ohio

I left early Friday morning of race weekend. It was a 10-hour drive and it’s boring as shit. ODOT is replacing a major bridge in Cincinnati so it’s a log jam on the detour. I got to the Hampton Inn at about 6:30 p.m. I took my P5 off the rack and started swapping the race wheels, but uh oh…the free hub on the rear wheel was coming apart…again. Yes this just happened two months ago at Chattanooga 70.3. It was there the race day mechanics said, “Sorry, you’re shit outta luck, but we can move your cassette to your training wheel.” I waited three hours for something I could do in less than five minutes and then was charged $75. Fuck those guys.

I googled local bike shops and found one open till 7:00 p.m…I got there at 6:52. The mechanics looked at it and said, “We rarely work on press-fits and it’s always Bontrager when we do, but we’ll figure it out. The one asks me if I’m here for the IRONMAN and I said yes. The older one said, “IRONMAN wanted us to be the bike techs but a tent would cost us $7,000. We couldn’t make that back in a day!” I said, “Oh yes you can if you charge $75 just to move a cassette from one wheel to another.” 

Thirty minutes later the older mechanic got it back together again. I asked him if he needed a hug today because I would give him one. All it cost me was $15 so was pretty fuckin’ happy. The name of the shop is Breakaway Cycling.

I got back to the hotel just as my mom gets there. I swear to god she packed for 36 hours like she was going to be gone a week. She says “That’s just a lot of stuff to eat, not clothes.” It was a lot of shit added on top of my shit in an unusually small Hampton Inn room.

I was up at 8:00 a.m. to hook a guy up who messaged TriTats Instagram account about tattoos for Ohio 70.3. We got to the Athlete Village and it couldn’t have been more underwhelming. It was a ghost town—tumbleweeds could have rolled on thru it was so barren. I stopped at the only tent there giving away free shit…Athletic Brewing, the non-alcoholic beer company. It’s probably the best non-alcoholic beer I’ve had since I quit New Year’s Day 2020, it didn’t taste diluted horse piss in a can like the other Non-alcoholic beers.

I checked in my run gear at the Selby Stadium football field. By the way if you’ve never been on a newish turf field, the turf is on top of pellets of ground up tires. When you’re wet or sweating and you touch the ground they get all over you. I was almost dead center of the field–middle row, 47 yard-line. It would end up storming overnight but my run gear bag was sealed with a tight knot.

Bike check-in wasn’t till noon for me so I did one of my favorite things to do and went to the farmers market going on till noon. My finds were all these different kinds of salsas, wildflower honey and catnip. My mom went for the sweets and also bought a sprouts type salad that would end up going rancid and smelled real fuckin’ bad.

Ohio 70.3 is a split transition race, T1 is about five miles away as the crow flies. On race day they’ll shuttle you from campus to the swim start. Again I’d find my spot dead fucking center of all the racks.

Now that the race day stuff was done me and mom killed time. First we both drove to a nursery in BFE who had a tent at the farmer’s market and got our own plants of catnip. Next we headed into Columbus to eat at Melt Bar & Grilled, which was awesome (I had the Up In Smoke). We were going to check out shops in the development but ended up going to Costco as my mom doesn’t have one within a 60 mile radius of Youngstown (she wanted to check out frames for her new glasses because it’s significantly cheaper there. It’s not the most thrilling stuff but I rarely come home—it was something to do and we didn’t kill each other.

Race morning came and now we needed to pack up and get to campus. My mom’s shit was all spread out like a yard sale and mostly not packed up. I had far less packing to do as I tried to do as much as I could the night before. Then I had to start loading our cars. My mom said to ask the guy at the desk (who never seemed to go home for 36 hours) if we could stash the coolers and electronics in the back while I raced. He says yeah and I get back to loading.

Shit. Where are my keys?

I’m searching all over, the parking lot, the room…at the same time I’m using my Tile to make my keys ring but that only works when you’re in close proximity to them. While I was searching the hotel cleared out of the triathletes. Finally when I found them behind a monitor on the front desk it was pretty late, we were one of the last ones left in the parking lot.

There was nowhere to park when we got in town. My mom says, “We can just leave your car here with my handicapped parking pass. Sold! Hung that shit up in the mirror and we drove to the swim start in her Caddy. Traffic was horrible, all the shuttles were late. My mom ended up dropping me off about a mile and a half from the swim start.

I got lucky they delayed the start to 6:50 because I wasn’t even close to set up. I texted my mom that “You’re going to get a call from a random number after the race, and that it’s me borrowing someone’s phone to find you. Any last words because I’m dropping off my bag? She says, “ok I’m leaving now. I’m good. I’ll follow along on the app.” I throw my phone in my bag and head over to the trucks…but someone is blowing up my phone because the bag won’t stop vibrating. So it’s mom, and she starts having a conversation with me for 10 minutes, which left me about two minutes to get over to the swim start.

I walked over to the swim corrals and ran into one of my swim coaches when I was a kid. Corky didn’t recognize me when I went to hug her, you know…the “Who are you and why are you trying to hug me?” look. Once I told her then she smiled.

The national anthem was about to play, but first former marine Mike Ergo was going to talk about his work with the IRONMAN foundation. He’s a really cool dude—he had me on his podcast (Ginger and Chocolate Podcast). I’m actually talking with him as I write this about how he should get his bike painted with a screaming bald eagle that fades into the stripes since he can’t carry his flag during it. 

The swim start used to be a wave start but now it’s a rolling start that’s self-seeded, which is far better. They also reversed the direction of the triangle pattern so the sun no longer is in your eyes on the middle segment. My swim was 36:38, which given that I have not been in a pool since about March and only swim when I race…that’ll do pig, that’ll do.

The parking lot of T1 sucks, it’s chip and seal so its really hard on bare feet. I had to take a detour to piss, that probably cost me like 45 seconds, but whaddya gonna do? I drank like five NA beers the day before, it was going to happen.

The bike is a point to point course from the reservoir to Selby Stadium. The course is mostly flat. At least like the first 40 miles. At mile 17 you get on a road that’s chip and seal asphalt which provided horrible rolling resistance. From mile 34.5 to 37.5 the roads are pretty shitty. After about mile 40 they changed the course so now it had a fuck ton more turns and is pretty convoluted. There is a hill within the last 15 miles that everyone dies on because they have no momentum after slowing to make the turn. I passed Abby at about mile 21. She said “I’d better not see you in transition” and I told her it won’t be till mile two. The last mile of the bike is no pass because it’s on a trail. My FTP was only 179 back in April (yeah depression will really slow you down). That day I averaged 203 watts for all 56 miles. I split 2:29, and there’s been maybe four times I’ve ever had bike split sub-2:30. Two oddities of the day: I saw no race officials and no draft packs. This was the first time in like 15 70.3s that my overall position wasn’t best in the swim. Maybe this bike leg was an anomaly?

Again T2 is on the football field. The pellets were on any part of my legs that touched the field, but it was a major step up from the shit parking lot for T1.

I knew I crushed the bike so I tried to run a little bit faster than I knew I could. I was about half mile into the run I see Abby finishing the bike. I was maybe five minutes ahead so I figured she’d still pass me two miles in. Anyway, I was at 9:40/mile for the first two miles and my heart was going to explode. I walked the aid station and took a piss. When I come out and look ahead of me there was Abby 50 feet down the road. I didn’t ask her if she was wondering during the whole run why she hadn’t passed me yet? After my heart rate came back down to earth I ran 11:15/miles. I didn’t bonk though, 11:00/mile is par for the course this year. I ran a 2:26…yeah, just three minutes faster than my bike split.

I finished in 5:40 and this was my best race thus far since we got back to racing. It was good having my mom at the race. She wants to travel more these days and my dad never wants to go anywhere, so I can bring her along whenever she wants.

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