2016 Ironman 70.3 Muncie

70.3 Muncie has been my focus since the day I signed up for it back in January. I like the 70.3 distance most and was excited to try this one since I’ve never raced it and it’s the closest Ironman 70.3 race to me now.

Swim: 27:27. 1st AG, 2nd OVERALL swim split?!?!

I started on the front line and got off to a good, smooth start. I felt really good early on; was focused and in control. About 5 of us went out at the same pace, but shortly after the second buoy, they all dropped and I found myself in the lead. I secretly wanted to win the Roka first out of the water (FOTW) award, but knew it was likely a long shot because I have never been the fastest swimmer in any of my races. By the fourth buoy, I was already starting to catch earlier waves and had to weave around them the rest of the swim. After making the second turn (rectangle swim course) back to the beach, I was instantly blinded by the glare on the water. I can’t imagine how bad it would have been without my Roka tinted goggles.  Everyone I talked to after the race said they couldn’t see after making that turn. I just started swimming and eventually saw the first buoy after the turn and was happy to learn I was on a decent line. I also noticed a blue cap (my AG) right on my feet behind me. Dang it, I was hoping I’d have a gap. I wasn’t about to give up the age-group lead now as I was having one of my better swims ever and was still feeling strong and focused, which is rare for me at this point in an Olympic or 70.3 swim. I put in a few surges to try to lose him. Unsuccessful. With just 100 meters to go, I breathed to my non normal side to see if he was there, and he was. He pulled off to my side, but I still had a full body’s length on him. I picked up my turnover and kicked hard; I knew this would come down to who could get their footing quickest and run over the timing mat first. Fortunately, it wasn’t rocky and I found my footing quickly, ran up the beach and heard the timing mat sensor go off. Boom! Roka FOTW award for my AG! After the race I found out I had the 2nd overall swim time! WHAT?!?! That’s unreal. Swim times in open water are not comparable since so many factors go into it, but only 9 men (including myself) broke 30 minutes. While it’s not my fastest swim split in a 70.3, it is most definitely my best swim probably ever, in any distance. I’ve put in a ton of work in the pool and I’m finally getting to see it pay off in a race. I went from 3 swims a week at 9-10k to 5 swims a week and easily 14-16k with the occasional 18k or so tossed in. I’m beyond thrilled with my swim and have to thank Dave Schiffer and the JCC masters crew for constantly challenging me. I think the highlight of my swim was surprising my mom who was along the path to T1.  She even said, “Whoa, Kevin! I wasn’t expecting to see you yet!” It definitely put a smile on my face.

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Getting focused pre-race.

T1: The run uphill from the beach to T1 was brutal. I was not ready for a hard run after a fast swim finish, but I eventually made it up the hill and to my bike. I slipped out of my Roka swim skin, put on my Rudy helmet and sunglasses and took off.

Bike: 2:13:43. My fastest 70.3 bike split ever.

The bike course is flat, fast and has incredibly good roads except a two mile section at the beginning and end. These were by far the best roads I’ve ever biked on. The wind wasn’t terrible on the first lap (we had two out and backs), but it picked up on the 2nd lap. You either had a tailwind or a headwind, but even into the headwind section, you still could move at a good mph average. I felt good early on and just focused on nutrition as I knew it would be important to be hydrated and well fueled during the bike so I could run well off of it. As I approached the first u-turn, I saw my buddy, Dave, who was still in the lead overall. At this point, I was in the 10-15 range overall since I was the 5th wave to start. I eased off the pace a little bit into this first headwind section since there was still a ways to go. The roads were getting crowded going the opposite direction and I knew I’d have a busy lap two. I saw my other friend, Barry, starting his first lap as I was about 30 seconds from u-turn number two. I was still feeling pretty good and was hoping to catch both Dave and Barry at some point during the next lap. Even though the 2nd lap was crowded, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. It was nice to have constant targets to go catch. Around mile 35, I took in a GU Espresso Love gel, washed it down with water and then got 1/3rd of a banana at the aid station. The combination was like rocket fuel, and I started pushing more and felt better. At about mile 39 and u-turn number three, I saw Barry and Dave just a few seconds apart on the other side of the turn. Game on! At mile 41, I caught Dave and told him “good work”. Then at mile 42.5, I caught Barry and we also exchanged words of encouragement. It was an eventful portion of the race because around the same time, I saw EMJ teammate James DeFilippi headed the other way and teammate Greg Grosicki’s wife, Briana, who was in an EMJ kit cheering on the side of the road. It’s definitely nice to have some familiar faces out on the course when you’re racing. I was still pushing pretty hard at this point, but felt good and didn’t feel it was too much. I eventually made it to T2 and heard I (or Brian Denny as the announcer said (I’ve never been called Brian before, Kenny, yes, but never Brian)) was the second into T2 and the virtual race leader since the person ahead of me was 50+ and his wave started 23 minutes before mine.

T2: Simple and quick. Rack my bike, put on my Sock Guy socks, Saucony Kinvara 7’s, grab race belt, salt, GU, and head out to run.

Run: 1:24:32.

My goal for the run was to remain patient early. I knew it would be a hot and hilly run, so patience was key for me, and not my typical mode right out of T2. The run course is deceivingly hard. There are very little flat sections and really only one major hill you go up at the end of mile 10. There are a ton of short rolling hills that make it hard to really find a steady rhythm. I started out in a pace I thought could handle as I’ve done it numerous times in training leading up to this race. 5:55, 6:14, 6:07. Perfect. I let myself go on the downhills and tried to not crush the uphills. I was still feeling pretty good; nothing spectacular, but definitely manageable and in control. Sometime after 3 miles, I dropped my salt. At the mile 4 aid station, I messed up the hand off to get nutrition from a volunteer. Before I knew it, the same kid (12 year old or so) came running up to me from behind and handed me the nutrition! I thanked him, gave him a high five, and told him he was amazing! I took over the lead on the course around mile 4.5. I was starting to slow, but trying to keep it together. 6:21, 6:29, 6:33. I reached the halfway point of the 13.1 mile out and back course, and it was the first time I could see the guys behind me. Third place was moving well and I knew I was in trouble. I really struggled on mile 7 and 8 (6:45 and 6:50, respectively). I was aching all over and trying to get in as much sodium and liquids as possible. After dropping my salt, I had to rely on Gatorade for my sodium needs, which I’ve never used before. Finally, after mile 8, I was able to get back in a groove. It was slower than desired, but at least it was faster than the previous two miles. 6:33, 6:23, 6:38, 6:30 and 6:40 were miles 9-13. The last mile was absolutely brutal. I was in a world of hurt, bargaining with myself with tiny goals to reach; just trying to find anything to keep moving and pick up the pace. I finally crest the short steep hill at 13 and headed to the finish line. I thanked the bike escort and was relieved that I was nearly done.

Overall: 4:09:33. 2nd overall, 1st AG.

I’m beyond thrilled with my race. While I didn’t have the run I wanted and know I’m capable of, being 1st AG swim and 2nd overall swim is still unbelievable for me. I’m very pleased with my 2:13 bike split which beats my previous fastest 70.3 bike split by 4 minutes. The buttery smooth roads and flat course definitely helped, but I also know I’m in some of the best biking shape I’ve ever been in thanks to Purplepatch’s guidance. Having a lead escort biker for over half of the run was an awesome experience and something I’ve never had before. I will admit, though, being the hunted instead of the hunter was not fun, especially since I was struggling to keep it together. I much prefer chasing people down rather than being the target and not knowing if you’re gaining or losing time on those behind you.  It was also incredible to raise the banner at the finish line as the 1st person to cross the line. Even though I wasn’t the official overall amateur winner (his swim wave started 4 minutes after mine and he came in about a minute after I did), it was still a very cool and rare moment to be able to do that. Qualifying for 2017 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga was objective #1 and I accomplished that.

Next up is a week or two of down time, and then I’ll get back into full training to prepare for the second half of my season. I have Age Group Nationals on August 13th, a local sprint triathlon (Cedar Creek) on August 27th and finish off my season with Ironman World Championships in Kona on October 8th.

I first want to thank the amazing volunteers and Muncie for an amazing event. The volunteers were incredible and so supportive pre-race and during the race and very much appreciated. This is easily one of the best ran Ironman events I’ve participated in, I will definitely be back. Also have to thank Briana Grosicki for coming out to support James and me (and others) despite her husband being out in California to race the next day, and the awesome picture of my mom taking a picture of me, thanks Briana! Thank you Dave, Barry, James, and anyone else who cheered for me on the course, your support was much needed and appreciated. To all my Every Man Jack teammates who push me to get better every day despite being hundreds of miles away, thank you! Phenomenal showing at Vineman this past weekend, it was fun tracking you all. To all our amazing sponsors: Every Man Jack, Felt, Roka, Garmin, Purplepatch, Saucony, Rudy Project, Louis Garneau, Enve, GU, Boco Gear, Sock Guy, and NormaTec, thank you all! You have all been instrumental in my training and racing.