Late in 2016 many of our Northeast Multisport club teammates were growing increasingly concerned that we hadn’t seen a registration link posted for Ironman Timberman 70.3. Come to find out, Timberman would be cancelled for 2017 (and likely indefinitely). This was unfortunate as I wanted to improve on last year’s Timberman time. Following up on this cancellation and search for an Ironman 70.3 in New England, Ironman partnered with Rev3 and thus Ironman Maine 70.3 was born. Rev3 had put on this race for several years prior to 2017, but this year the registration numbers DOUBLED from last year with Ironman in tow. It was clear that while the race had some Ironman flair, it was still being run and operated by an entity other than Ironman. My splits are below and this is my 2017 Ironman Maine 70.3 Race Report.
For 2017, I had a new race schedule including the Patriot 70.3 which was in June. I set a solid PR at Patriot and was looking to improve on that for this race. During the course of Ironman Maine 70.3, I got a flat tire on the bike due to debris in the road piercing my tire causing a healthy stoppage. When removing the “flat tire change” from my time, I set a solid PR in this 70.3. Read on for more.
2:42:35 - without flat tire
5:21:30 - without flat tire
Pre-Race & Mental Toughness
This race was my A race of the year. Following Patriot 70.3, I was looking towards a stretch goal of 5:20 for time. My goal was to focus on continued improvement on the bike (including comfort, sustained power, and position on the bike) and improving my run time to a sub 2 hour half marathon split. In preparation of this race and after Patriot 70.3, my TrainerRoad Triathlon Training entered the Specialty phase. I found the Specialty phase rather demanding physically. With the accumulated fatigue, I was noticing significantly improved fitness and strength that I’ve never felt before since starting to compete in triathlons. I was a bit apprehensive how much fatigue was accumulated right before race day, but I followed rule #1 “Trust in thy training”. I was using the mid-volume plan whereas last year I was using low-volume. There was a solid bump up of volume and intensity following this change but I was seeing noticeable results during the course of the training block. My goal leading into the race was try to hit every workout and absolutely make sure I hit every run. I tried to make sure every run was outdoors and not on a treadmill. This turned out to be a key decision.
While my training was taking a significant step in the right direction, I couldn’t help but to be upset that I wasn’t going to get another crack at Timberman for time comparison. We did do a ride of the old Timberman course to test some things out including nutrition, pacing, and position on the bike. I also changed my saddle and acquired race wheels. But I wasn’t out for a PR on that ride. Ironman Maine 70.3 would present a few new challenges to overcome including:
- Ocean swim – never done that before
- New course – didn’t pre-ride or run any part of the course
- Would be overnight so not my bed to sleep in the night before
- Parking looked to be quite far from transition
- I’d be using a relatively new nutrition plan
I’ll be honest when I say these items caused me some mental stress the weeks leading into the race. Knowing these mental limiters would affect race day, here’s what I did to attempt to overcome them.
In early July, my wife and I went on a cruise through the Bahamas. Having never had an ocean be part of one of my races before, I used the trip as an opportunity to get in a salt water swim. This experience led to several more questions such as “how will salt affect my body as it dries”, “how will I get the taste out of my mouth”, “how will tides affect my swim”? I asked several of my teammates how they reacted to these questions and came to the conclusion that I’d have an extra fresh water bottle in transition to dump over me and wash my mouth out. I also checked the tide charts for the race venue and realized that the race start would be right in the middle of high and low tide which meant that we should have as “flat” a sea as possible.
There’s nothing better than pre-riding or running a course you plan on racing at. For me, however, I wasn’t able to do this. Instead of allowing myself to become stressed, I created Strava routes of both the bike and run course. I studied these courses, figured out how my strengths would match to the course, and plotted my strategy. For example, the bike looked like the first half was hillier than the last half. So my plan was to push the second half as hard as I could and stay as strong as I could within my power range as I could for the first half. The run course looked really flat, so my plan was to settle into a consistent pace that I thought I could maintain the whole run. This planning mentally prepared me for the course despite never seeing it.
When realizing I’d be better off spending the night instead of driving 2 hours each way the day of, I decided to select a hotel that was more comfortable. I stayed at the Residence Inn in Scarborough, ME. This brand of hotel has a bedroom with a door, refrigerator, microwave, and a stove. This granted me maximum options for food. While I still didn’t sleep well the night before, it was due to race nerves and nothing against the hotel.
The biggest negative about this race was that it took place in a tourist destination at the beach. Parking lots were small and not terribly close to the Ironman village. The day before I happened to park in the farthest lot possible (as it also happened to be the volunteer lot). I spent the night before the race looking where a closer lot to transition was and wound up finding one 0.3 miles to transition vs the 0.7 miles I was in the day before. Some pre-planning reduced race-day morning stress.
As many of my race reports in the past have indicated I’ve struggled a bit with nutrition during 70.3 races. What’s an ex-accountant to do? Make a spreadsheet of course! I kept track of what was being consumed during the course of my training, logged calories, carbohydrates, sodium, etc. The spreadsheet helped to make sure that I was getting what my body needed when it was needed. I also made sure that all the products on the list were tested during the training season. Some highlights from months of testing:
- No Clif Bars…they wreck my stomach
- More fluids with sodium (so I doubled up Nuun tablets at Patriot 70.3)
- Stinger Waffles are easy to consume, taste good, and are easy on the gut
- Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars worked really well
- Bananas worked extremely well at Patriot
The Day Before
As is typical with Ironman races, one must pick up their registration packet and drop their bike the day before the race. Being as I live approximately two hours from the race, I was planning on leaving my house around 11 am. At 7:30 am, our neighbor arrived with a Bobcat front-end loader and started working on clearing our back yard. We’ve had a project on our radar to add more grass to the back yard. So from 7:30 to 10:30, I was working in the backyard. Totally what you should be doing the day before a big race right?
After an uneventful trip to Maine, I found parking right next to Ironman Village. Turns out this parking lot would be used for volunteers the next day. I ran into a few Northeast Multisport teammates before heading into the registration tent and took the obligatory selfie. We were told that the swim could be shortened or cancelled as the water temp was in the 50’s and it was expected to be chilly the next morning. After the usual multi-step process to get your registration packet and timing chip, it was time to drop the bike in transition.
I rode my bike from the registration area to transition. It was quite clear that this was no short distance. My rack was at the far end of the parking lot. Pro tip…always make sure you reduce the pressure in your tires when you leave them overnight. As the bike would be baking in the sun it increases the pressure in the tires. I dropped my bike mid-afternoon so the sun was still high. While in transition dropping the bike I heard a tire explode (not mine, but foreshadowing race day). Apparently there were others that exploded over the course of the day too.
My primary concern leaving transition was how long the walk would be back to the car. Considering I knew I’d have to pump up my tires in the morning, the logistics of how I get my stuff from my car to transition and back out again started causing me concern. I only trust my pump as I know how much air to put in. To see how far transition would be from my car, I turned on the GPS on my watch and found the walk to be 0.69 miles. Holy smokes, there’s no way I can walk that far three times on race morning.
Dinner consisted of driving into South Portland to Becky’s Diner. It was a nice little place. I got a big breakfast for dinner. No concerns here.
Getting back to the hotel, I setup the items I’d need to work on in the morning including water bottles, number tattoos, etc. I also looked at the parking map and realized I parked as far away as possible from transition. It wasn’t hard to find a parking lot that would be closer to transition so long as I could get there as close to opening as possible. My plan was to be at the parking lot by 4 am.
Included in my number packet was a personalized note from the race organizers. This is a tradition from the Rev3 crew who put on the race this year and in previous years. It was a nice touch and athletes were posting their notes on social media all evening.
During the course of the day before, I had several Maverick and Northeast Multisport teammates reach out to me for advice, best wishes, and “good lucks”.
It wasn’t my best night’s sleep as I was working through the logistics in my head for the following day, my race plan, and mentally prepared for what was to come. Eventually I passed out and looked forward to the 4 different alarms I had set for the next day.
When the alarm went off (at full volume), I was instantly awake. All my items were laid out the night before. I got a quick shower to warm up the muscles and get my skin as clean as possible. On went the race number tattoos, team kit, chamois cream, and decided it was time for breakfast. I brought my own oatmeal, banana, maple syrup, Gatorade, and a Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso. This meal travels well and ensures I get exactly what I know works for my system for race day.
When I got to the parking lot I planned to stay in, it wasn’t open yet. So I started driving around and found Georges Parking around the corner. Turns out this was only a quarter mile from transition and was even closer than the one I planned to park in. Winning.
You still saw some of these “transition is over there” signs which still highlight the logistical difficulty of having a major race in a crowded tourist destination. From what I’m told, the race participants doubled from last year to this under the Ironman brand. I’d expect some changes next year to help alleviate traffic congestion on the surrounding roads.
After a very short walk to transition from my car, I pumped up the tires (still holding pressure), setup my area, and then found a few club teammates.
Of course there was another pre-race selfie with Mia. I mean how else do you document the day. Ironman won’t allow cameras on course. After the selfie it was another quick trip back to the car, drop the pump and transition bag, back to transition to put on the wetsuit, and get ready for the day.
We heard the announcement while in transition that the water temperature was barely 60 degrees and thus would be wetsuit mandatory. The walk from transition to the pier was rather long and as a guy with tender “baby” feet, I already felt some blisters by the time I hit the pier. Point for next year, buy the cheapest sandals possible or wear socks for that walk. The blisters would come back to bite me on the run.
The sunrise was simply stunning. We also had a teammate who raced Ironman Mont Treblant taking photos for us including many of the below. Thank you Lori! After a brief dip in the pool…I mean ocean to acclimate to the water temperature, it was time to get into line.
This race had a unique starting configuration. The two major types of swim starts have either been mass start by age group or self-seed time trial start. With a mass start you and 150 of your closest friends start all at once in the water. This often leads to complete chaos in the water. Self-seed time trial start usually has you line up behind an expected time banner similar to the way larger running races work. Ironman Maine 70.3 was a first-come first-served line. There were some people, myself included, what it meant to be self-seed. Some people in line were very protective of their spot in line and did not want others to cut in front. Personally, I could care less as I had just as much time to complete the course as the next person.
Eventually I got up to the front and it was my turn to rush into the water.
Once I hit the water and the body adjusted to the temperature, I got into a rhythm. This course was two left turns in a simple box. The only sighting issue was that the sun was directly in your eyes after making the first turn. Back to my pre-planning, the tide was moving north to south. The course had us swim east, then north, then west. Prior to entering the water, I noticed which way the tide was pushing so I made a conscious effort to swim knowing the tide would push me off course slightly. After the first turn the tide was more noticeable as I wasn’t hitting the buoys as fast as I’d have liked. I encountered a decent amount of congestion, but I think with the tide, swells, etc, people were being pushed off course and honestly, wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting given the starting format. It did feel like I was out in the water far longer than I actually was. I was very, very surprised when I exited the water, hit the lap button on the watch and saw I swam 35:34. This was only 34 seconds slower than my goal on my “crush it” goal. Sweet, right on track. With a complete lack of swimming this year, I was more than content with that time. Turns out I was 28th in my age group in the swim.
Out of the water, we had a 0.44 mile run up to transition. This was by far, the longest run to transition of any race I’ve ever done. My transition time was over 6 minutes and included the long run. After already walking to the beach barefoot before the race, this additional run on pavement just wrecked the bottom of my feet. It was great though to have wetsuit strippers right at the end of the swim. I was hopeful they’d be there and not up at transition as it would make getting the wetsuit off a bit harder.
After winding around transition and finding my bike, I took my time dousing myself with clean water, getting the sand and pebbles off my feet (which I didn’t do a super job of), and gathering everything I needed for the bike. Exiting transition was easy enough as I started the ride. When I was running up to transition, I felt my left glute super tight. It was interesting because when this has happened to me in the past, it was always my right glute. The glute issue is likely a symptom of the cold water, lack of swimming, and high volume leading into the event in which I had tight hamstrings.
When I’ve had the glute issue in the past, I found it is best to take it easy for a bit to let things warm up. This time it took almost 10 miles before I could really push on the pedals. My goal for the race was to hold a normalized power of 80% FTP. I really wasn’t succeeding over the first 10 miles given the glute, but the course was so flat, the lack of ability to apply the power was offset by the rolling hills, my mass, and the race wheels doing their job.
The bike course had a lot of turns on it, with some coming at the end of a fast section. I took as many of these turns at speed. Start the turn wide, pre-shift, hit the apex, and exit wide. I saw many people slowing way down and losing a lot of momentum. I kept the pressure on the pedals attempting to not over cook myself. Constant pressure on the climbs, steady power on the flats and downhills resulted in me passing a lot of people.
I made sure to drink as much as I could, eat the Stinger Waffles, Stinger Chews, and fig bars over the course of the bike. I never once felt short of energy or dehydrated on the bike. This was one of the first bike splits where I felt really, and I mean really good. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had a half marathon to run after this, it would have been really easy to blow up on this bike course. The pavement was in really good shape in all but one or two spots.
Everything was going great until mile 35 coming out of a turn and I hear “flap, flap, flap, hissssssss”. Oh come on. I pulled over to the side and I see a piece of rubber with metal stuck in my tire. This was the first race I’ve ever had a flat in. I was mostly annoyed because I was just getting into a strong rhythm. I’m sure I jinxed myself as right before the flat I remember thinking, this race is going so good, I might break 5:15. I start pulling apart my flat kit, grab the tire lever and struggled getting the tires off the rims. It’s funny, I never remember having a problem getting them onto the rims. As the race wheels are deep section, I had a valve extender that I had to take off first. So valve extender off, new tube, remove valve core, reinstall valve extender, get the tube in the tire, get the tire finally seated. I’m just about the screw in the CO2 canister and inflate and an Ironman support vehicle pulls up and asks if I need help. Well dang, that was convenient. “You got a pump in there?” He said yes and I was psyched that we could use real air instead of the CO2 which does bleed out through tubes. Granted I only had 20 miles left but I wanted a good firm tire. This additional effort took a few minutes longer, but was probably worth it.
After the flat, as soon as I got back onto the bike I felt the left glute again. Seriously? Ok, guess we need to rewarm that up again. It didn’t take too long but my muscles just didn’t feel as strong after the flat as I did before. Maybe it was my mind playing games or just the 11 minutes it took to get back on the bike caused enough cooling down that I wasn’t 100%. My averages before the flat was 196 watts and 21.0 mph. After the flat, averages were 173 watts and 20.1 mph.
When I arrived back at transition, I was well under 3 hours inclusive of the flat time. Excluding the flat, I was 2:42:43. So I think to myself, you just crushed your bike split when you remove the flat time. You are “really” doing better than your time goal. Don’t let the flat time ruin your run. I was 104th in my age group on the bike inclusive of the tire flat.
I convinced myself that despite 11 minutes going to be added to my time for a flat repair, I’m still racing for that 5:20 time in my head. I’m removing the flat time from my official time because I’m racing myself. I’m racing my own fitness. I worked all year to get myself to this point. Let’s do this run.
I’ve never broken 2 hours on my Half Ironman run split. That was my number one goal for the year. With it being a goal, I really didn’t do much to improve my running speed. By that I mean I didn’t do a lot of speed work. What I did do was make sure as many runs as possible from spring through race day were outside and not on a treadmill. In the weeks leading into this race, I was setting all kinds of new PRs on my runs outside which gave me the confidence that I could maybe, just maybe, break 2 hours. My Golden Cheetah software predicted I should be able to run a 1:50 – 1:57 run split.
Also in the weeks leading up to this race, there were reports that the new Gatorade on course was terrible. My fueling strategy was to bring my own bottle with Nuun tablets and take bananas at the aid stations with two gels as a backup if the going got rough. Out of transition, we started up a mild hill which my legs didn’t really want to push up. However, when I reached the first mile marker I was shocked that I just ran a sub 9 minute mile. Wow. Ok, so if going uphill was a sub 9 pace I’d expect that on the long and flat trail section I should have no problem maintaining that pace to break 2 hours. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
At the first aid station I decided I’d try the Gatorade as it was originally part of my on-course nutrition strategy changed due to the taste reports. The Gatorade tasted fine to me. At this point I was annoyed because I now had a 24 ounce water bottle strapped to my hip. As I continued running I’d take a Gatorade and banana to consume, and water to dump on my head. I quickly realized that I was thirsty in between aid stations and was glad I had the bottle of Nuun with me.
Through the first few miles I was running well under 9 minute/mile pace. I was running 8:20-8:40/mile. This was well under my goal pace. On one hand I could slow up a bit and save more for later. But this pace just felt really good. I didn’t feel like it was unsustainable. I got into a rhythm. My cadence was good, my nutrition and gut felt good, I was staying hydrated, and was passing a lot of people on the trail. Eventually we got to the turnaround at exactly 6.6 miles. I was right at 57 minutes at the turn around and right on track for a sub 2 hour half marathon.
Right after the turnaround I felt my glute still acting up and a mild pain starting in my right quad. I had a Hotshot on board and decided to consume that just in case either of these were cramps ready to rear their ugly head. I also was hedging my bets that a hamstring cramp could come at any time as I struggled with that in my longer runs prior to the race. In no time, I felt the glute, quad, and hamstrings stretch out a bit so I’m sure the Hotshot did its job.
I kept up my pace as best I could. For almost all of the second half of the race I felt the hotspots under my feet resulting from the barefoot walk to the swim and up to transition. As the race progressed, it became harder and harder to push off the balls of my feet but I did the best I could. The later part of the trail had more congestion as people were slowing down, struggling through aid stations, and caused me to also slow down a bit. I kept a positive attitude knowing that I had just a few miles left. I also calculated how much I could slow to still finish under 2 hours. Once we exited the trail we hit pavement again for the first time in 8-9 miles. It took a few minutes for the body to adjust to the pavement again. It was great, however as the trail was well shaded and most certainly had an impact on how well the run went.
The run course dropped us back at transition and I knew based off the prior day’s walk it was a half a mile to the finish line. There was plenty of crowd support in the last half mile and I was ecstatic when I finished and looked at an official run split of 1:55:09 which was good enough for 23rd in my age group.
As I crossed the line I see my watch flash 5:21:30. This was the time with the flat removed. See, I have my watch autopause so things like stop lights aren’t included in my workouts. I knew my actual finish time would be higher (5:32:48). Immediately on crossing the line I had a huge smile on my face. I knew that 5:21:30 was so unbelievably close to my season “crush it” goal that I’m ok saying I did in fact beat my time goal. You need to understand that the T1 run to the finish alone was not part of my original time goal. When I planned out my season I wasn’t expecting to run almost a half a mile from swim out to transition. That run alone was worth at least a minute or two. Taking out the time necessary to get back up to speed after the flat was worth another minute or two. Not having blisters on my feet from the walk to the beach and run up to transition impacted the run.
I simply am so happy that the training this year paid off and I had a race execute as perfectly as I could even given some challenges along the way. I have two more races left this year. One is an olympic distance in two weeks and the other is Ironman Atlantic City 70.3. Atlantic City will be interesting to see how accumulated fatigue and total lack of shade play into the mix, but I’m ready to go.
It was chilly after the race so it was awesome that the organizers were handing out Mylar space blankets. It certainly helped keep me warm. I also enjoyed the post race meal of an Amato’s sandwich. I found nothing wrong with this meal. After drying off, collecting my things from transition, it was time to head home.
What I Learned
I love reflecting on the things that went well and those that didn’t so that next time I have an even better race. Here’s some thoughts from the 2017 Ironman Maine 70.3.
- Absolutely freaking nailed the nutrition and fluid strategy (yes it was cool weather)
- Bring disposable sandals next year. The walk is too far. Save your feet.
- Maybe leave the transition bag in transition next year. It’s a pain to keep walking back and forth to the car to get stuff in and out of transition.
- Seems silly, but I really, really like Swiftwick socks. Yes they are a sponsor, but they are tough, comfortable, and caused me no issues.
- The mid-volume TrainerRoad Triathlon Training Plan worked spectacularly well for me.
- Keep working on sustained power. You can push harder.
- Work on getting a run split to 1:45. That will make you significantly more competitive in the age group.
- Continue watching what you eat. Less weight makes things go so much easier.
With that thanks for reading!