Race Recap Time!!
This whole trip to Taiwan was such an unforgettable experience. There is so much to share that made it unique but in this post i’m going to focus on race day itself. Ironman 70.3 Taiwan was my second 70.3 after my first in 2016. It was a whole different experience this go around. The night before, my friends Jayme, Ben, and I searched for a restaurant we could get some pasta at to safely fuel up. One of the big challenges in destination racing is finding places that will keep your gastric biome happy while being unable to read the menus! When you’re not sure what is exactly in the dish or even what type of meat you are getting picking food can definitely be intimidating.
We chose a place called Nu Pasta that seemed safe. Clearly, we were not the only ones with that idea and we had to wait a bit for a table. Our menu options were limited and we all decided to go the safe route with the bolognese on the cover. The food was decent but definitely nothing to write home about. Also not what we were expecting for a bolognese sauce. We wanted safe, and we got safe.
After dinner we walked back to the Sheraton. We went our separate ways to do final preparations and turn in early.
Race Morning: 3am
My wake up call came early but I was ready. I’ve never gone into any race with confidence so this feeling was definitely new to me. The lack of butterflies was an interesting change for sure. I went down to breakfast at 3:30 am even though I had brought my own breakfast that I knew worked for me. Kinda Blueberry Granola, usually with almond milk, but this morning I ate it dry. A hard boiled egg for protein and a couple cappuccinos rounded out my meal. I always deal with pretty challenging cramping in my calves towards the end of my swims and I have found that my custom made Infinit does a good job preventing this. As soon as I was up I started sipping on some trying to get as hydrated as possible.
Course nutrition was posted ahead of time to let us know what would be on course. Naturally we didn’t recognize a single item. I couldn’t experiment ahead of time so I brought all of my supplements from home. Everything was portioned out in zip lock bags. A couple baggies of Infinit, a bag of blue Gatorade, and a bag of Vega Sport’s Recovery Accelerator for post race. I had all of the zip locks, along with my solid nutrition, in a plastic bag and packed it inside of my bike bag.
Since we’d check our bikes into transition the day before I only had to pack a transition bag. This included my wetsuit, helmet, shoes (bike & run), Honey Stinger waffles for the bike, my race belt and some other small items. Pro Tip: I’d been hoarding the complimentary bottled water in the room for the few days before and used those to fill up my bike bottles. Versus trusting the tap in the hotel or near the race course. Better safe than sorry.
Transition Shuttle: 4 am
At 4 am we all headed down to the shuttles over to transition. Sure enough, transition was bustling with people, music, and fluorescent lights. Another little pro tip for the ladies racing in Asia – try to use the bathroom in your hotel room at all costs. The Port-a-pottys in Asia lack an actual toilet seat so they are effectively a porcelin hole in the ground. Not ideal for pre race nerves. There were expensive bikes everywhere here, apparently they are much more afforadable here. That or everyone is super rich and can afford 5 & 6 figure bikes. Cervelo, Felt, Specialized, Giant, and of course Ceepo could be seen all over the course. My wise friend coined the mantra ” Mo Money, Less Fast” to help us not be intimidated.
After setting up all of my gear, mixing my various bottles of drink, and squeezing into my wetsuit I headed down to the water to warm up. The Finish side of the swim course was open for us to warm up at. To get acclimated and loosen up the wetsuits Ben and I swam a quick down and back. Transition typically closes 10-20 minutes before the race starts, meaning everyone has to be out of there. We went straight from our warmup to get queued up at the start.
Swim Start : 6:00 am .. ish
The swim at Flowing Lake was a mass rolling start. After the pros went (around 6:00 am) the rest of us shuffled down the stairs towards the water. The process was slow however it meant the water wasn’t too crowded when we finally got in. It took me 30 minutes to get through the line into the water! The swim course was an easy to follow rectangle. It is as if the lake was built for 70.3s! I felt great during the whole swim – like a shark swimming over my competition.
When racing in Asia expect the swim to be more chaotic than you’re used to. Yes, it is possible! Most competitors here are not strong swimmers and not used to swimming freestyle. Seeing 75% of people swimming breast stroke blew me away. Aside from being irritating it was actually quite dangerous. To have that many unconfident breaststrokers all over the field made the swim challenging. Essentially I swam from pocket to pocket. Trying to avoid the walls of people kicking out all over the place. I finished my swim in 37:13 shaving 8 minutes off my previous time.
T1 : 7:05 am
Transition 1… oh transition 1…
I can’t express how much a long transition run irks me. Luckily, sand was not involved. A long transition run is just what we got in Taitung. You exited the water and then ran almost a half mile in your wetsuit back along the lake. As you can see below you ran down the full length of transition and then all the way back! Personally, not my favorite set up. It took me 7 minutes in T1 to remove my wetsuit and pick up my bike. It pains me.
Bike Course: 7:12 am
The bike was distractingly scenic. The ride was mostly flat and fast. The couple climbs that were on the course were nothing compared to what we train on Guam. On one side you had the beautiful Philippine Sea and on the other you had stunning mountains. Each town we passed through had amazing local fans cheering us in Mandarin. For 56 miles we got to sightsee the southeastern coast of Taiwan and the small farming towns along the way. People tending to their rice paddies and caring for their chickens lined the course.
Our aide station volunteers were very green. Not only did none of them speak English but for many this was their first time working an aide station. The race brief cautioned us to please go slow and be careful at the aide stations. The whole ride I felt like I was comfortably uncomfortable. I was pushing myself and working hard to maintain my 20mph pace. Crossing into T2 with a 2:55 bike was right on target. Essentially the same bike time I had 2 years ago, so I definitely feel there is some room for improvement there.
T2: 10:07 am
T2 was a breeze, a long breeze but still a breeze. I switched to some lock laces for this race and boy did that speed things up! That said, I still had to run the full length of transition to the run-out. In and out of T2 in 4:32 with just one leg to go! Worried I had burnt my legs too much on the bike and wouldn’t be able to have a strong run I knew I’d have to push through the first couple miles.
Run Course: 10:11 am
The run course started around the lake in a big loop and then continued into Taitung Forest Park. While not very shady I did not feel like the course was hot. Warm yes but training on Guam has really upped what my body can handle in terms of internal temperature. The first 5k were a little faster than my goal pace which felt great. The following 10k was perfectly on pace but my feet and knees were starting to ache. This course was a three loop course and you picked up a little rubber wrist band as you completed a lap.
My mantra for the run was “Stay in Your Lane”. Meaning keep your blinders on – don’t look at what age group others are in, don’t look at what lap they’re on, don’t worry about their race worry about yours. I tried to keep my own personal goals in my mind. The run course was so interesting and enjoyable it was easy to do.
I had a few bad miles that were much slower than I wanted and I felt disappointed. However the last three miles I was able to dig deep and really pull my pace back up to where I was aiming for (9/min miles). To be honest, the red bull station really motivated me! I was running faster just so I could get my fix again!
Overall this run felt great. Anyone who was at Steelhead can attest to how bloody and blistered my feet were, and how bad the cramping was. The lack of those two things alone made the run so much more fun.The last 1.5 miles I fell in step with a man from Hong Kong. We said nothing but we kept shoulder to shoulder at a very uncomfortable pace. Both of us just powering along, pushing each other, making sure we both finished strong. I finished the run in 1:56:15. Unfortunatly, I don’t have a good finishers photo because they lady in front of me ran with a Canadian flag that blocked everyone behind her.
PR Finish: 5th Place AG
While my hope is that as I continue to race overseas, and as this blog grows, more friends and family will go with me to these race-cations. For Taiwan however I flew solo. I was overcome with love when I picked my phone back up and saw all the texts from people back stateside. Family, friends, and previous teammates from all over the world were tracking me on the Ironman app. It meant the world to me. Finishing 5th in my AG at an Ironman branded event was so exciting. It definitely made me extra excited for the rest of the races this year. The men at the Jeju 70.3 tent already have me thinking about Korea in 2019!!