• Derek Stone

Steelhead 70.3- The Run is Back!

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead-

This race is special to me. Living in Nashville has made it challenging to get back to Michigan very often. In fact, the last time I was in Michigan was about 18months ago for my twin sister’s wedding. I decided to race steelhead to have the opportunity to see my family. When I signed up for this race, my sister and brother-in-law lived in St. Joseph. I’ve spent a good amount of time in the area and have always enjoyed my time here. Who wouldn’t want to spend time on the beach? I also have a college friend and former teammate that lives in the city. We shared the GLIAC record in the Distance Medley Relay for several years until it was broken by Ashland.

Fast forward to January of 2019. My sister and her husband move right down the street in East Nashville! So, at this time, I was looking to transfer out of Steelhead to another 70.3. having 4 70.3s on the docket and a full, there wasn’t much room for me to move the race. I had a few other ideas in mind, however, a colleague of mine was interested in racing his first 70.3. Steelhead it was!

Leading up to the race, I had to take several weeks off. I was unsure how the run would go. I knew the fitness was there, but I was a little nervous. The big question mark happened to be Lake Michigan. The water was 59 degrees a week out from the race. Burrrr. Seriously, I am not sure how I would respond to that type of water even with a wetsuit. Fortunately, it warmed up to 68 degrees. I jumped in on Saturday without a wetsuit and it was pretty comfortable.

After testing the water, I went to my AirBnb and swapped my chain out for an Ice Friction chain. You know what everyone says right? Don’t try anything new on race day? Well, this was close enough. I couldn’t get my quick link to connect. I became frustrated and had a mini panic attack. I lined it up once more and called Jim with Nashville Velofix. He provided a pretty simple instruction. “Step on the pedal with a little force and you should here it click in.” Sure enough, it worked! Okay! Off to dinner.

Just like any long event, I booked a reservation at Vivi’s, an Italian restaurant and some of my teammates from Every Man Jack as well as my co-worker and his wife joined. I don’t stick to the pasta policy. I like to stick with a fish or chicken with a grain and veggies. In this case, it was salmon. Seemed fitting!

Before bed, I laced up my shoes with a new set of bungie laces and drank a Gatorade. I was in bed before 9. I swear, I have the most irrational dreams before a race. I never sleep well but I always have weird dreams. For example, I’ve had dreams where I’ve began the run leg and I realized I’m completely naked and I receive a DQ.

Race Morning-

Up at 4:30 with a little oatmeal, coffee, banana and sport drink mix. I got all my gear packed up, two bottles ready, a small snack before the race and some Roctane gel I would take prior to the swim start.

I made it to the parking lot at the Whirlpool Tech Center. There is always a sense of calm and anxious emotions the morning of a race. I think everyone is facing it. You can see how everyone begins to mentally prepare for the long day ahead.

I racked my bike and had everything placed where I needed it. Now, I just needed a little bit of a run. I left transition and ran about 10 minutes. Just enough to get my heart rate up and feel good about warming up!

The Swim- as I got into my Roka wetsuit, Joel (co-worker) came up and we exchanged our best wishes for the day. It was his first 70.3 and it looked like it was going to be a great day! Before the Pro start, I made sure I sent my positive vibes to Every Man Jack’s lone pro, Clay Emge. As the age groupers began to line up, I entered the corral with EMJ teammate Justin Herrick and friend and fellow podcaster, Scott Foland. I tend to base my swim performance off of Scott’s, so I knew if I came out of the water near him, I was in good shape.

And the age group race was off! I was probably about the 4thor 5thgroup to go. Just behind Scott and Justin. The water was cool and refreshing but it was calm. I began to pass people up until the first turn. By that turn, I found some fast feet to latch on to and I stayed there. The backstretch of the swim course began to thin out. By the time I hit the second turn, the competitor I was swimming behind made a big move. I feel like I swam alone the whole last stretch. Official time- 29:44

T1- 2:40

By the time I got out of the water and peeled off my wetsuit, I looked at my watch and saw 30:XX while running in the sand. I wasn’t sure what to think. It seemed slow however, you never really know in the water. As I made my way through transition, I heard Justin yell at me as he ran out with his bike. As I began to exit transition, I could feel my heart rate spike and I was a little nervous. I always forget this goes away. I just needed to get on the bike.

The Bike- About a quarter mile in, I passed Scott on the bike. Okay. Either I had a good swim or we both had bad swims. No time to worry about that I just needed to go! I caught a few people within the first 20 or so miles and was passed equally by some uber cyclist. Around mile 20, a pack about 10 or so passed me along with a moto that rode with the group for about 10 miles. I saw one guy get a penalty. I believe it was a tight pack until the moto came up then everyone began riding legal. I was shooting for a 2:16 bike split but I just didn’t have it in me. I’m still working on my power and it will come within time. I had two bottles of mix on my bike that I went through along with 2 Gatorade endurance formula bottles I picked up at aid stations. I wanted to get ahead of nutrition so I could put down a solid bike split, so I took in 3 GU Roctane gels. Some of the roads were pretty rough but I knew that going in. Michigan has terrible roads. The turnaround was the worst where I hit a pothole and nearly lost control, but I was able to stay upright. Coming back into T2, you have to ride on the boardwalk which is ridiculous. I can’t believe there is not an alternative option to get back. It’s somewhat unsafe but I spouse I was fine. Official bike split 2:20:26 (shooting to gain fitness and efficiency for Traverse City!)

T2- 1:41

The Run- I exited the run just behind a fellow athlete I knew, Ryan Hackett. I caught up to him and we exchanged a few words before I moved on. I settled nicely into 5:50 pace but I wasn’t sure if I could hold that. I grabbed water, Gatorade, water at each aid station. At about mile 6 I began to feel the fatigue set in. I grabbed a gel at that aid station, and it seemed to hold me together. I grabbed another one when I passed that aid station on the second loop too. By mile 9 I began to fade pretty quickly. I knew I had just 1 more hill to climb and it was pretty much downhill to the finish. I counted down each mile marker and I was ready to be at the finish line. Once I could see transition, I wanted to pick it up, but I really didn’t have an extra gear. I just tried to smile and look pretty for the camera. Official run time 1:17:34. I’m pretty happy with that but I would really like to run a 1:15 off the bike. Looking back, I can’t be disappointed considering I had to take nearly 3 weeks off from running.

Overall time 4:12:07. And that is an official PR! I was really hoping to knock on 4:05 that day but I know my limited is the bike and I have an opportunity to really gain time there. Hopefully with an additional winter of solid training, I can shave off some time on the bike!

Next up, Team Magic’s Music City Sprint. Better Known as the Music City Sprint World Championships. Conrad and I like to hype up this race and we will be battling once again on July 27th.

Photo Credit- Sara Abbott

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