This was my first time racing Syracuse 70.3. I had registered for it in the fall of 2011 knowing that it would be 4 weeks out from IMLP and as such would be a suitable tune up for the big day. I, along with 6-8 other Nauts, made the trip up the day before the race in order to check in to both the race and hotel on time. The majority (if not all of us) would be using this as prep for Placid so we all had very similar goals and objectives which we discussed briefly after dinner while having some laughs in the hotel lobby thanks to a couple of new apps...
Matt and teammate Paul Mik prior to making the trip, the race course was a calm swim (but blinding at times), uphill bike initially followed but a fast back half, and a hilly run. This was the 3rd year they would be having this race, and with it came the 3rd different run course. The run course was really the only wild card, however I knew it would be hilly and that was enough for me to plan properly.
This race would mark the first time I raced according to power on the bike. My goal was to ride around 265 watts and loosely base my run on heart rate but hopefully be around 6:15-6:30s. I wasn't going to be fully rested for this race so this was of course taken into account as well. My wave was scheduled to be close to the last wave which meant I would be swimming through a few crowds, however it also meant there would be plenty of cyclists ahead of me to help propel me through bike leg (using the legal time/drafting limits of course) and hopefully set me up for a run with others ahead of me to keep me driving forward.
The gun went off and I hammered to the first buoy as if it was the start of a 100yd freestyle. I was towards the front with only 1 guy ahead of me. I tried to hold his line however he was just too fast for me so I tried to settle into a good rhythm and navigate the masses. As I made the two turns at the far end of the swim course I really hit a good turnover and was grabbing a solid amount of water without wasting too much energy. I got to shore and headed to T1 in hopes of exiting T1 in less than 30 minutes. I saw the clock as I lifted my bike off the rack and it read 27:xx...off to a good start.
As I got my feet into my already clipped in bike shoes I kept repeating the race plan in my head. Smooth and steady on the uphills and keep pushing on the downs and flats. The first 2 miles of the bike are flat/downhill which helps with getting situated and settled before climbing. Once the hills arrived however, they didn't give up much. I hit the 20 mile mark and took a look at my computer. I was averaging 19.9 mph (not bad considering the climbing), HR was in the 160s (a little high but perceived exertion validated it), and power at 205 watts....WHAT?!?!? This was low. I was hoping to be in the 230s at a minimum however by keeping HR and PRE in check meant the power suffered. Knowing the back half of the course was net downhill I decided at that moment to really push it and see what kind of power I could maintain leading into the run.
Here is how the 2 halves of the bike compared:
First 28 miles: time 1:21.03, speed 20.7, HR 164, power 209, cadence 93
Second 28: time 1:06.53, speed 24.7, HR 166, power 229, cadence 93
Obviously the change in profile helped, however I was still very happy to still increase the power without upping the HR too much. Cadence was matched perfectly and as a result I had fairly fresh legs for the run.
I didn't get a chance to see the race clock between the bike and run however I knew I had biked right around 2.5 hours so I was still very content with the race so far. As I said earlier, the run was going to be hilly, however it was an out and back which meant whatever hill I went up I would get to come back down and vice versa. This is good news for me because I feel I am able to capitalize on the downhills without doing much damage in the process.
I went through the first mile in 5:53 with an average HR of 176. This was a little hot, but not by much as I was only 11 beats over my average bike HR. I decided to run based on PRE and HR instead of pace for the first loop so I could see just how challenging the course is and modify my plan for the second lap. These hills were no joke! The uphill pace slowed into the 6:30-6:40s while the downhill pace dropped to sub 6:00 at times. I completed the first loop and was ready for the second half push. I wasn't sure where I stood in my age group besides the fact that I was moving up and nobody had passed me through 8 miles. This of course changed at the base of the monster hill on lap two (between miles 8 and 9). A guy came alongside me for a short (and I mean short) time and asked if I was on my first or second lap. I told him second and he said he was also. I added that I wasn't sure if there was anyone else ahead of us and he replied with, "let's go find out...come on!" He proceeded to take off at some stupid fast pace up the hill and I tried not to slow down too much. It turns out that he ran a 1:17 and was the fastest amateur overall that day.