Home > race report > Syracuse 70.3 Race Report by Caroline Godfrey

Syracuse 70.3 Race Report by Caroline Godfrey

My week leading up to this race was mentally challenging.  Having panicked in the swim at the Independence Tri 3 weeks before was still weighing on me, even though I had since built up some confidence in the open water.  Having come to the realization that I do much better in races where I don’t put pressure on myself, the strategy now was to relax and enjoy the race.  This was a breakthrough, and this race was to be an experiment to see if it worked.  Also, the purpose of this race was to test out my nutrition and fitness on a similar course to Lake Placid.  Like a mantra, I kept repeating to myself, “It’s just reconnaissance.”  On Friday evening, I spent my nervous energy babying my bike, literally with baby wipes, lubing the chain, and planning my nutrition and where I could keep it in order to be as aero and comfortable as possible.

I drove up to Jamseville Beach on Saturday with Rob and Cindy, who were also racing.  We got there just in time to pick up our packets, attend the mandatory pre-race meeting, and check our bikes in.  We checked out the lake, and it was full of weeds which the race management was trying to clear out.  The water temp was a perfect 70 degrees, and I started to feel more confident.  We left Jamesville Beach and headed to Syracuse to check in to the hotel, have some dinner, and go to sleep.  My pre-race dinner was a shared veggie flatbread, veggie/feta pita sandwich, and a glass of Malbec…and lots of water to counteract the dehydrating effects.  For some reason a  Greek/Lebanese-style meal is like comfort food for me before a race – I had done the same before the New Orleans marathon, and it worked.  I slept fairly well that night, as well as I normally sleep, waking up 3 times, and tossing and turning.  Knowing that I usually train on less sleep made me feel very prepared when I woke up at 4:30.

We left the hotel at 5:15 and made it to the parking lot at 5:45, leaving us an hour to set up before transition was closed, plenty of time.  The air temp was already 70 degrees and climbing fast.  I did something which I don’t normally do, which is a 5 minute warm-up swim.  I made sure to swim through the areas with the most weeds in order to desensitize myself to the feeling.  It was a good decision.   I got to the start 10 minutes before my wave started, and that was perfect timing.  I was as ready as I would ever be.

I had decided, in order to avoid the crowd and a panic attack, I would swim the long way around the buoys.  I was confident that I could swim more than twice the distance without tiring, so that was ok with me.  I did eventually get closer to the buoys and got caught up in traffic, but by that time, I was very warmed up.  I swallowed some water at one point and felt a panic attack coming on, but I was able to get it under control by focusing on long strokes and gliding through the water.  I also had my ankle grabbed twice by someone, which angered me, made me kick really hard to scare them off, and got my heart rate and breathing rate up.  I actively managed that by recalling my 25/25 sprints /active recovery, which I did as part of training.  It proved useful in getting my heart rate back down without panicking.  By the end of the swim, I had swum (according to my Garmin 910) over 1.3 miles in just under 47 minutes.  I did have some help getting my wetsuit off before crossing into transition, which added a few seconds to my split (47:06); still it was a PR, woohoo!    I was 58 out of 95 coming out of the water, which was predictable.  It isn’t my strongest sport.

I took my time in transition, 3:59 to be precise, making sure I had my nutrition on me and everything I needed.  I decided I did not need socks, which worked out great.  I had prepared myself for this hilly bike course.  Perhaps I was over prepared, because I had so much anxiety about how tough the initial 12 mile climb out of Jamesville would be that I really held back a lot.   Everything I read about the course stressed how important it was to hold back on that initial climb.  In fact, I pretty much held back the entire course, thinking I needed to avoid a penalty and avoid tiring myself out.  I could have pushed a bit harder and been fine.  I felt like I could have held that speed for a full ironman.  I ate 2.5 honey stinger wafers and a gel, I drank 2 full bottles of sports drink, I rode through the aid stations and did the old switcheroo, tossing my trash and used water bottle directly into the bin, grabbing replacements on the fly.  I totally felt like a pro!  I fearlessly rode the downhills in aero position, hitting almost 42 mph.  My God, how I love those hills!  I finished the bike in 2:59.  I know I could have gone at least .5 to 1 mph faster.  Next time.  Just the bike course makes me want to do this race again next year to see how fast I can really go.

As much as I overestimated how difficult the bike course would be for me, I completely underestimated the difficulty of the run course.  It was by far the most difficult, hilly run course I have ever experienced.  By the time I made it to the run, the temperature was 90 degrees – 15 degrees hotter than normal for this race.  I have never seen so many people walking.  There were sections where 100% of the athletes were walking, like all of the uphills.  Even on the flats (well, false flats, since there were no flats), I felt like I was among very few who were actually running.  I did not eat on the run, but I knew how important it was to stay cool and hydrated.  I stopped at every aid station, stuffed ice in my shirt/bra, poured ice over my head, poured water over my head, drank one cup of water and one cup of sports drink, and grabbed cold sponges and squeezed them on my head.  I also stopped to get soaked by every hose and sprinkler I saw.  All of this took time, but it was completely necessary.   When I was running, I kept a good pace, between 7:30 and 8:30, but averaging that out with the stopping and the walking, my average was 10 min/mile.  I finished the 13.1 in 2:11, with plenty left in the tank, no cramping, no dehydration and feeling very good.  10 women in my AG did not finish the run, and the run splits across the board were slow, so 2:11 felt successful to me.

I didn’t know how I did, when I finished.  I knew my time was about 6:05, not a PR, but anyone would be crazy to expect a PR in this race.  I didn’t know my rank, but I didn’t check, since I wanted to see Cindy and Rob finish.  I grabbed a turkey sandwich and waited at the finish line.  Cindy came in 15 minutes or so after me, and after a huge sweaty hug, we decided to wait for Rob.  We waited almost an hour, and I started to worry that maybe he got dehydrated and was in the medical tent.  Watching the finishers was fun though, cheering them on, and seeing the looks of relief, elation, or hard sprinting to the finish.  A severe thunderstorm started rolling in before Rob, and the race director announced that athletes should get their stuff out of transition and find shelter.  I lost Cindy in the fury, but I saw Rob running to the transition area as I was running out with my gear.  I told him to meet me at the car, but I needed to get by checked bag first which had the keys.  I didn’t make it to the car.  I had to wait in the tent with the checked bags until the thunderstorm passed.  I’m guessing Cindy and Rob had to do the same.  There was a break in the weather, and the 3 of us separately made a run for the parking lot.  I had some trouble finding the car, which was a bit stressful.  We got changed into dry clothes, and decided to go back to the ironman village, since there was massive traffic in the parking area.  That’s when we looked up our results.  I saw that I came in 13th out of 95 in my AG (my rank has since moved to 12th out of 85, since 10 didn’t finish the run).  There were 3 slots open in my AG for Vegas, so we decided to stick around for the roll down, especially since a lot of people were leaving because of the weather.  After waiting a while, we asked when it would be, and we were told that they decided to email the roll down.  There went my chances for Vegas…not that it was my goal, but it would have been cool to join Cindy and Claire.

Lessons learned?  It looks like Worlds is in reach for me.  I just need to find a good 70.3 with a hilly bike course and a flat run.  However, coming into a race relaxed, with no expectations, is the key to a good performance for me.   I also learned how to manage my nutrition on the bike.  I know this is more of a story than a report, but that’s what it was for me – an adventure.

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