The Flatlander 70.3 – the good, the bad, and the ugly

On Sunday, I was ready to race Ironman Wisconsin 70.3. Mojo was set in transition on Saturday and I was excited to test my endurance and push my limits on race day! I woke up to severe thunderstorms on race morning and a note from Ironman Wisconsin:

So, with no real hurry to get to transition only to stand around in the pouring rain, we opted to sit in the car for a bit at the Alliant Energy Center before boarding a school bus to transition.

Sitting in the car while it POURED buckets outside!!

Once in transition, we set up our gear (trying to find ways to keep it as dry as possible), donned our wetsuits in the mud pit that transition was, and 3 minutes before transition closed made the decision to pull out of the event. We loaded up our gear, trudged through the mud pit, and headed back to the Alliant Energy Center where the car was.

Hmmm…is this a Tough Mudder Triathlon?????

My fave decided to take a quick shower to get all of the mud off of him before getting in the car…

So grateful to have my fave by my side and help make decisions that are right for us…this was the weather on race morning.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon…

I talked on the phone with Coach Kelly. She really wanted me to test my fitness since I was trained, tapered, and super jazzed to test my endurance. I immediately got excited about the idea of doing a solo 70.3 race! Coach Kelly encouraged me to come up with a name for my event and reminded me to mentally prepare to crush it! She may have also told me not to get a drafting penalty on a solo race! 😉 I came up with the name “Flatlander 70.3” for my event since our terrain in central Iowa is pretty flat compared to most locations and MUCH flatter than the IMWI 70.3 course!!

Fast forward to Tuesday morning…race day!!

Swim: The Good…
I felt the normal “pre-race butterflies” as I ate my breakfast and drank my Karma Kombucha. I set up my run transition in the garage, and headed to the pool where I would begin my Flatlander 70.3 adventure! I set up my bike and transition area inside the gate of the aquatic center, started my RoadID app so people could track my progress, and hopped in the pool at about 6:05 am for 2000 meters (just over the 1.2 mile distance). I felt like I was working hard and swimming at a good clip, but I was burping A LOT!! I never have this problem, so I wasn’t really sure what was going on. My swim ended up not being as fast as I thought or hoped for…41:48 for 2000 meters (1:55/100 yard swim time) + 1st overall 🙂

Race morning!

Bike: The Bad…
I quickly jumped out of the pool, jogged to my transition area (and was asked by the lifeguard not to run in the pool area…LOL…don’t they know I’m racing?!?!), and transitioned to my bike gear. As I exited the pool area, I quickly dropped my swim skin + swim goggles + swim cap in the car before heading out on the bike. It ended up being a bit foggy, which was a good indicator of the humidity levels, but I could still see at least a mile out in front of me, so I wasn’t worried about vehicles being able to see me. As I pulled up to the first stoplight leaving town, I realized that auto pause was set to “stop mode” on my Garmin. As the light changed green and I rolled ahead, I tried to change this while riding, but accidentally pushed the “lap” button putting my data in T2 instead of on the bike. I kept rolling, but stopped the triathlon mode and just set my Garmin to the bike mode and stopped messing with it. I was still burping a bit, so I drank water and pushed on. As I left town and went west, the sun came out, but when I turned around and went back east, the fog was still hanging on. It was weird. About 30 minutes into my ride, I took my first round of nutrition (Salty Balls) and nearly puked. My stomach didn’t want them, but I had no other nutrition with me, so I forced them down (gagging the whole time), drank a lot of water, and kept moving forward. Each time I tried to consume nutrition, I thought I was going to puke…my stomach was not happy, but I knew I needed nutrition to have any chance of finishing the day, so I kept forcing it down little by little every 30 minutes and drinking all the fluids I had. With about 1 hour ride time left, I knew I had to stop at the gas station and refill my water bottles since I was completely out of water. I could feel the temperature + humidity rising and there was no breeze! About 5 miles from home, I had to stop for a train…I think the race director for the Flatlander 70.3 forgot to inform Union Pacific Railroads that there was a race going on…LOL!! 😉 As I was rolling back into town the fog lifted and the sun beat down just in time for me to transition to the run. My bike was not as fast as I’d hoped (and my watts were lower than I’d wanted + expected them to be)…3:18:43 for 57.1 miles (17.2 mph average speed) + 1st overall 🙂

Trying to smile through the discomfort in my gut!

Run: The Ugly…
I quickly put my bike in the garage and transitioned to the run. Basil was barking at me from inside the house…clearly VERY upset that I wasn’t taking her running with me! Within the first few steps of the run, I knew this was going to be a long run. My calves were on the verge of cramping. I knew this meant I needed to drink a LOT more water, so I started downing my handheld water bottle. By mile 2, I was run/walking…the cramping was awful, I was HOT, there wasn’t even a breeze from the fart of a nearby animal, the humidity was 70* (which was on the border between “uncomfortable and tropical” according to our local meteorologist, which I found out when I was done), and there was no one there to encourage me to keep going. I SERIOUSLY considered quitting! I decided to keep run/walking + drinking all the water I had to Moore Park where I would refill my water bottle and then head back home calling it a day. I had made the decision to quit. By mile 3, I was so sweaty that I had sweat squishing out of my shoes with every step I took. At about mile 4, a Spring Green Lawn Care employee saw me hobbling by with my Ironman Wisconsin 70.3 race bib on (I figured I had it from Sunday’s race that I didn’t do and I was racing, so I should wear it). He asked, “Did you race on Sunday?” I told him I opted not to start the race due to the weather, which is why I was doing the distance today instead. He said, “That was a wise decision. That race was one of the stupidest things I’ve done. I couldn’t see the swim buoys because of the chop on the water, the transition was a muddy mess and then when I got to the bike, people were crashing all around me. I just held on during the run trying to get to the finish line.” I said, “Congratulations on finishing!” and ran on. He gave me the motivation to finish the whole 13.1 miles even if it was going to continue to be a run/walk due to the cramping and feeling defeated (as I knew my sub 6 hour goal was gone). I consumed some fruit snacks (which I always use while running for nutrition), but my stomach was still off and I was gagging on them. I forced them down and washed them down with water. I refilled my water bottle at Moore Park, drank the whole thing, then filled it again before going on. I drank the whole bottle again before mile 7. I took in more fruit snacks, refilled my water bottle at a different park, and forged on. I made it home at about mile 10.5, where I consumed more fruit snacks and refilled my water bottle again (using the outside spigot…I knew if I went inside where there was air conditioning + puppy snuggles I’d be done) before heading back to the pool where I’d left the car. It was a struggle and I was very disappointed that I wasn’t going to meet my sub 6 hour goal. At mile 12, I was jogging and sobbing uncontrollably because I was so disappointed in myself. I decided to change the channel and set a new goal for the last 1.1 miles. I had just over 12 minutes to finish the 13.1 miles in under 2 hours and 30 minutes run/walk time (my actual run time was 2:52 something with stopping at the drinking fountains all over town). When I hit the 13.1 miles, I immediately started crying…I was done. I was so happy to be done, but also very disappointed in my performance. I was upset that my stomach wasn’t cooperative. I was crushed. My run time was MUCH slower than I’d hoped for (and much slower than I know I’m capable of)…2:29:45 for 13.1 miles of run/walk (11:26/mile pace) + 1st overall 🙂

I was very happy to be done with the Flatlander 70.3 race!!

Overall I finished in about 7 hours and 10 minutes of total time + 1st overall. Sure, I did what I could and I finished, but no where near how I had hoped. This was THE TOUGHEST RACE I’ve ever done!

Disappointed in my day

After taking some time to think about my race, I have so many take aways and lessons learned!

  1. When my stomach is off (even just burping in the water) take Tums! I had them with me, but didn’t consume any. Don’t know what I was thinking…oh wait…I clearly wasn’t thinking!!
  2. Because of my stomach issues, it is time to start practicing other nutrition options. This isn’t the first time the salty balls have caused some GI distress for me during a race, so I need to start practicing other options.
  3. I am a VERY heavy sweater (not the kind you wear in the dead of winter either)!! My body requires a LOT more salt + water as a result. Don’t skimp on the water/hydration consumption…especially when it is so humid! Drink it all up + take my Base Salt!
  4. Self supported races require a lot of planning to try and get all of the hydration/water you need on your own.
  5. Having no volunteers, spectators, cheer squads, and other athletes on the course is SO HARD!! I’ve had some races in worse racing conditions that I THOUGHT were miserable, but they weren’t compared to this! Having friends, family, and random strangers around you, supporting you, pushing you, encouraging you, and cheering for you makes tough conditions much more bearable!!
  6. My mind is so much stronger than I think it is. I have to believe in myself even more than I already do! I have come a long way in this department over the last 15 years of racing, but I still have a long way to go! I am strong! As a friend said, “NOW you know what you’re made of…pretty amazing ain’t ya!”
  7. My body allowed me to keep pushing it even when my stomach was upset, my legs were cramping, and my mind wanted to quit. Sure I was cramping a bit on the run, but I KNOW I used that as an excuse far more than I should have during this race. I definitely could have run more than I did + I should’ve and could’ve pushed harder than I did in every discipline throughout this race.
  8. I am beyond blessed to have a village full of amazing people who were behind me in this crazy adventure!! Thank you to Coach Kelly for believing in me + pushing me out of my comfort zone to have me complete a solo 70.3!! Thank you to Coeur Sports for making super comfortable apparel even when I saturate it in sweat and for connecting me with such an amazing + supportive team of women!! Thank you to SBR Sports Inc. for keeping me chafe-free (even in all of that sweat) with the use of Skin Slick…or should I say skin saver!! Thank you to my cheer squad for encouraging me to keep going and finish this crazy feat…my fave, Ruth, Robin, Liz, Beth, Sara…your social media posts brought a smile to my face when I was done!! Thank you to Nick at Vitality Massage for working out all of the mess RIGHT after I was done racing!! Thank you to my FAVE!! You are my rock…your unwavering support and encouragement help me achieve the impossible!! I’m so grateful to have you by my side!!
I did a thang! The #flatlander703 was the TOUGHEST race I’ve ever done, but I learned A LOT and got 1st place overall!! Thanks to my fave for the award ceremony and making me feel special!!
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17 thoughts on “The Flatlander 70.3 – the good, the bad, and the ugly

  1. Awwwwwwwwww!! I love that you shared this, the bad and the ugly! I love that you toughed it out, and wore your bib! This day took so much heart! The humor in it is amazing too, the lifeguard, hahahha, the train? Hilarious! Congrats on this great learning experience and enjoy your recovery!

    1. Thanks Steena! It isn’t always rainbows and unicorns, but these are the races that we learn and grow from. The #sub6orbust goal is still alive! There were a few funny moments throughout the day. I almost took a picture of the train while I was waiting for it, but decided to drink all the fluids instead! 😉

  2. Great read, and nicely done. A solo “race” does not compare to the real deal (for example…trains, stop signs and traffic signals need to be obeyed, etc) and you don’t have the adrenaline from other racers or fans so don’t beat yourself up that you didn’t make your projected race finish time.

    A few things that floated thru my brain reading your story.

    1. I have gone 7 years in running and triathlon. I have no DNS or DNF. I’m proud of the “no DNF”. I’m embarrassed by the “no DNS”. I have done races where I should have known better (and, deep down, I did). But I would go thru it anyways and put myself at risk. I “think” that I have reached a point that I could line up, say “nope” and walk away from a race. Of course, I am only doing a very small number of short races. I might still have a hard time with a destination race and/or “big” event (marathon or 70.3). I’m proud of you…

    2. The swim burp thing. I get that too…kind of. I think my swim stroke needs work….and I think I swallow a lot of air when I side breath. The longer the swim, the more air goes down and the more likely I get a problem. I thought it might be due to adrenaline on race day, by it usually happens during a practice swim. Once I get out of the water, BAD cramps develop (almost went to the ER thinking I had appendicitis the first time it happened). I can’t burp it up The pain is severe and last for hours. It only happened once on race day…IMOO 2014. Because of it, I was only able to get down about one bottle of Gatorade by special needs. By that time, the pain settled but I was so dehydrated and nauseated that I barely got anything down on the second half of the bike either. If you can burp it up, do it. See if it happens again on the swim and see if your breathing technique might need tweaking (only guess I have as to why it happens…and you are the only other person to have something even remotely close to what I get…)

    3. I did a similar 1 man race 3 weeks before IMOO. No swim, but a 112 Mile bike followed by as long of a run that I could manage (18 Miles…by which time it was too dark to go on safely). It convinced me that I had the endurance to do it. It made me concerned about my speed (that day, I would have been pulled at the halfway point on the bike, at the end of the bike, and any run checkpoint, and anywhere in between). I did fine on race day despite the stomach issues (back of the pack, but finished comfortably and never worried about cutoffs). What I learned about these one person events is that you can learn a lot, but you would perform much better on race day for all of the reasons you and I discussed.

    4. I know you would have gone sub-6 on race day. You had the strength and courage to do it but knew it was the wrong thing to do). That is something a lot of athletes need to feel comfortable with. Thank you for sharing with us. We grow thru your strength, courage, and heart…

    1. Thanks Raymond!! I’ve never had the burping while swimming before, so I’m not sure what it was. I’m confident the DNS was a good move for us on Sunday. It took a lot of courage to make the call, but it was the right one. I’m also confident I can bust the 6 hours. Hopefully next month in Ohio!! You’re right…self supported races are so different and much tougher than you might think going into it! Thanks for all of your words of wisdom!! 😉

  3. I can’t believe the MUD in that picture. I’m definitely a fair weather athlete 😉 I’m sorry that you had some unexpected problems like the digestion issues, but you should be very proud of yourself for finishing that race…you gained a lot of mental strength by getting through it on your own. Well done!! *claps*

  4. Awesome!! You have to be super proud of yourself for finishing that!! We can’t always have the best races…and this was just one of those not great races to have under your belt! I’m sure it made you way mentally stronger!! Onward!! Congrats!!

  5. Way to tough it out. As you said in the ‘take-aways’, even if you are having a hard race, knowing that other people are there to support you is a HUGE motivator (at least it is for me; I know that I’ve seriously considered DNF-ing at least twice, but the main reason I didn’t was b/c of friends and family who were there).

  6. Way to get it done, Kecia! You made some smart decisions, and you really showed some grit to get through the run. I’m a salty sweater, too. Actually, in addition to that, I have POTS, so without enough sodium on a normal day I pass out. Race day is a particular challenge. I’m testing out some things this season (it is a new diagnosis for me) but I’ll be watching to see what works for you, too. Hope you get it and your nutrition figured out!

    1. Thanks Laura!! I’ll be making posts as I try new/different nutritional strategies and options. Let me know if you find something that works!!

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