Monday, October 1, 2012

Poconos 70.3 Race Report

Ahh racing.  Oh how I missed you!  You are my very favorite thing to do!


Standing on shore prior to the swim start it was relatively easy to see the buoys and the layout of the course.  When the race director let us into the water (start was a bit delayed due to some shuttle problems) the announcer told us "4 minutes until the pro start" and then about 22 seconds later he was yelling "everyone back to the line, 90 seconds until the start!"  And everyone looked out into the lake (large pond) and saw...lots and lots of fog.  Where did the buoys go?  I guess we would soon find out!  :)

The horn sounded and off we were and I felt pretty darn good!  The pro men and women started together which I thought I was going to NOT like but it turned out I really DID like because there were just that many more bodies around and people to swim with.  And in fact, I DID swim with people!  This might be a first this year!  About 2/3rds of the way through, I pulled through the little pack that I was in and gunned off on my own (or at least tried) so I swam the rest of the way by myself.  Overall I felt great and strong and I was pretty excited to see my swim time.  As I got out of the water and ran up the road a little bit I looked down and saw a "26" on my watch.  UGHHHHH!  Totally short swim.  I would love to think I really did swim a 26 (actual split was 25:5x!) but I know that just isn't the case.  You don't go from swimming 30 minutes to 26 minutes in a matter of weeks!  Nevertheless, I was very much encouraged by my swim, how good I felt and also happy for the experience of swimming in a group.  Had it been a legit 1.2 miles, I feel confident it would have been a good time for me which means my swimming might be headed in the right direction?  Maybe?  Ah...who knows...  :)


I had decided to put on a vest (and I already had arm warmers on under my wetsuit) in transition, no matter how long it would take.  This race had very similar conditions (water and air temp) to Oceanside earlier in the year PLUS the Poconos bike starts off with a 4 mile screaming descent down the mountain.  BRRR.  I chose not to put any extra clothes on at Oceanside and really regretted it so this time I figured I'd be smart(er).  In the end I think it was a good call so I'm sticking with my decision!

As I exited transition with bike in tow, someone told me I was the 5th female.  I'll take it!  I set about trying to hunt that first person down.  Of course I didn't see anyone for about 13 miles and only then did I see the other women because there was a turnaround at about 14 miles and I saw them as they were heading back (while I was still heading out).  FORTUNATELY, there were 3 women all together (with Tenille way out in front by herself).  Oh yeah! 

It took me another 10 miles or so to catch them.  As mentioned, the bike course starts with a big 4 mile descent.  The next 20 miles are on an out and back section that is only VERY slightly rolling (ie: it's pretty flat).  And then from there you get up into the constant up and down that you would expect of this region.  My Garmin told me there was about 2800 feet of climbing but it all came in the last 30 miles.  I finally caught up to 2nd-4th place right as the flat was ending and we were starting into the hills.  There was a race official on motorcycle making sure those 3 were riding legally so when I did finally get myself to them, I sat back for a bit trying to decide what to do.  I figured I was going to have to put on a massive effort to just pass all three at once which didn't seem smart but was really my only option unless I just wanted to latch onto the back.  Latching onto the back was also not a good option because there were some FAST runners behind me and I wanted to distance myself as much as possible.  So after a little self pep talk I went for it.   


It did indeed take a massive effort and my Garmin would later show that I rode close to 320W for a while to get around all 3 of them legally.  Um, that's a lot for me.  And I'm sure it burned a few extra matches that I probably shouldn't have burned.  BUT to me it was the way to go because this is a RACE after all!

Of course after I passed them I tried to ride really hard to get away.  This worked for 2 of the 3 but I did not shake Amber!  I relaxed for a bit to eat, drink and compose myself at which point Amber passed me back.  I tried several more times to shake her but she was always right there behind me.  At some point I conceded that we'd be riding the rest of the way in together.  Which is exactly what we did.  Sometimes I led, sometimes she led.  We got a little confused together through town when there were SO MANY CONES and we had no idea where we were supposed to be (which we eventually figured out and got a good laugh out of).  It was a good, hard ride and I really enjoyed it.  But don't get me wrong, I was also glad when we finally rolled into T2!  Final bike time was 2:31:26.


I've raced with Amber a few times this year and I know she is a good runner.  I came into T2 telling myself not to let her get ahead of me because once she did, it would be really hard to catch back up.  Oh now wouldn't that prove to be VERY true!

We came into transition together but of course it took me FOREVER to get anything done.  I wrestled with my vest, fought with my shoes.  And then out of the corner of my eye I saw Amber darting across towards "run out."  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  I got all flustered (like seriously, have I NEVER done this before?) and in my haste forgot my Garmin (I put it on my bike for the ride and hadn't remembered to re-attach it to my wrist).  I ran back to get it and just like that, Amber was gone.  It really is silly little things like that that add up!

Here is the elevation map of the run course from the Ironman Poconos website:

It should be noted that this map is ALL LIES!  I really don't understand what this map means.  I kid you not that to the turnaround was a downhill and then once you started heading back it was uphill.  Seriously, all lies.

Here is the elevation map of the run course per my experience:

Yes, that's right - it was hilly.  Okay, no big hills and in all fairness it did finish on a downhill...but still, it was up and down, up and down...not all up on the way out and then all downhill to the finish!

Okay, back to the race report.  :)  When I did finally get out onto the course I could still see Amber, perhaps 45-60 seconds up the road.  I didn't feel great at first and was just trying to let my stomach settle and my legs come back to me.  But as we got out of the neighborhoods and onto the long road that would be the majority of the run, I started to feel quite a bit better.  The volunteers encouraged me through each aid station that I should "go get her" and I started to really come around to the idea that maybe I could!  Although I will admit (and this is the biggest lesson I learned yesterday), at this point of the race (miles 4-9) I was still thinking BEHIND me instead of IN FRONT of me.  What I mean by that is, I was thinking only of the FAST runners behind me (and there were quite a few!) instead of focusing on catching Amber.  It was a mistake and I know that now. Lesson learned.

When we got to the far turnaround at about mile 7ish I could finally get a look to see who was coming behind and let me tell you, it wasn't very reassuring!  They were all together and they weren't too far back. 


Somewhere around mile 9 I got my head in the game.  It occurred to me that nobody had caught me yet AND furthermore, I was getting ALL kinds of encouraging comments from the AGers coming the other way to "go catch her", "she's right there", "you got this."  AHHH!!  I pray every morning for God to help me not waste the opportunities that He gives me and here I was, almost about to waste this VERY great opportunity to give it my all and GET AFTER IT!

So I went about running as hard as I possibly could to try and catch Amber over the next 4 miles (not like I wasn't already running hard but now at least I was thinking in the right direction!).  And I REALLY, REALLY tried.  I was so, so thankful for every passing comment I got from the athletes running the other way.  I couldn't acknowledge them all but they really lifted my spirits!  But try as I might, I was making up very, very, VERY little ground (if any at all).  Hats off to Amber.  She was in the MUCH tougher position of being the chased vs the chaser and she held up to that pressure wonderfully. 

In the end I came up 22 seconds short.  I would love to say I just needed a few more miles but honestly, I don't think that would have done it either!  Amber is a tough athlete and she gutted it out!

Our final run times were almost exactly the same.  I had let the gap grow and then I shrunk it some but the time that she put on me in transition was what it came down to!

Nevertheless, I was absolutely THRILLED with the outcome.  Honestly, probably just as thrilled if I had caught her.  Because yesterday was all that I love about racing - a real, honest to goodness RACE!  I truly enjoyed it and I was so happy to feel strong and like I could really go for it.  This is what all the training is for and I really got my reward yesterday!!  To say I felt very thankful and blessed is quite the understatement!

Amber definitely pulled out of me one of the best runs that I've had in a half (not my fastest time but also not the easiest course) and for that, I'm really thankful to her!  Focusing on her also kept those fast runners behind at bay.  Just goes to show - if you take care of business up front, you don't have to worry so much about what is behind.

(in telling this story, I should remind you that this was the race for 2nd place as Tenille had 1st all wrapped up about 7-8 minutes ahead of us!)

Yesterday was a really good day for me.  I love the 70.3 distance and this race just confirmed that!  I was happy with the result but also learned a lot of lessons throughout the day.  I just missed breaking 4:30 again so I still have my eye on that barrier too!

Overall a most wonderful weekend!  Although I had my moments, I also survived travelling to my first race by myself which was a victory in and of itself!  It is a somewhat logistically challenging race with two different transitions and a whole bunch of shuttles in between, but the course itself is awesome and I highly recommend it to anyone that is thinking about doing it next year!  The foliage is beautiful this time of year!

This is Otis.  He is my homestay family's dog and he was awesome!  He apparently keeps the bears away... (Also, I did get a picture of my actual homestay family (the people) but am waiting for it to get emailed to me.  Monica, Jason and Sophia were awesome and I really enjoyed staying with them!)

From right to left, Tenille, Amber, me, Heather (4th place Jessie is missing).  Honored to share the podium with these women!
Thanks to everyone for all the cheers and good luck wishes!  How much longer until I get to race again??  :)


  1. Good Job Beth. Looking at your last picture, you have biking legs for sure. You look VERY strong.

    Good luck in IMAZ. I forget when that is, but I am sure I will hear about it.

    Congrats again. :)

  2. " I pray every morning for God to help me not waste the opportunities that He gives me" - That's my favorite part of this post! I'm not religious... but I feel that way, I don't want to waste each day I am given. CONGRATULATIONS on such an AWESOME race!!

  3. I adore reading your blog and race reports! You are very inspiring to me and I know to many others! Awesome race this weekend! I was thinking about you the whole time and sending good vibes to the Poconos to you!!!

  4. Congratulations Beth!!! I was so excited to track you and see how well you were doing. I love how every race you pick up one more piece of the puzzle!

  5. Beth you are amazing :) Very proud of you !!!!

  6. I was one of those AGr's yelling at you. Ha! Well done! #351.

  7. Sounds like a great race and battle down to the end! It's great to see you doing so well as a pro!

  8. LOVE IT - so great to see you have a GREAT race. AND one you are very happy with - great to see Heather up on the stage with you too! :) Hope you are enjoying your Arizona prep - tis the season! :)

  9. LOVED reading this report! The run is supposed to be all heart and that's what you did!

    Oh, and I would kill to swim a 26, so take it and run with it.

    Congrats love!

  10. congrats Beth!! Awesome racing and great report! I love the insight about focusing on what's in front of you vs. behind you.

    Your rendition of the run course elevation pretty much sums up how I remember it!!