Syracuse 70.3 is a great event. I’m a fan of races that take place more out in the country than the starting in the city. The roads are usually better, and the course is often much more scenic that races that take place around a big city. Syracuse fits this sterotype. The course is very scenic and makes the 70.3 miles go by rather quickly.
Last year I placed 4th in Syracuse 70.3. However, I knew that this year the times would be much faster to finish in the money. Big names like Andrew Yoder, Ben Collins, Jordan Rapp, Lionel Sanders, and Paul Ambrose were all on the start list, along with others I didn’t mention. I usually get a little worked up from looking at the start list, but this time is was different. I didn’t really care about the names on the list. I looked at it that I have nothing to loose and everything to gain from where I stand at this point. I felt physically great on the days leading up to the race… everything was clicking really well. I just was hoping that I would feel on top of my game come race day.
I woke up at 4:45 on Sunday morning and had a small (first) breakfast that included a serving of Energy Bits (use code MIKE502BITS to save 20%) to help give me sustained energy throughout the race. We headed out the door (the first time) ahead of schedule. About 5 miles down the road, I realized I had forgotten a crucial part of the day back at home. My two bottles of Infinit for the bike and my flask of NAPLAM for the run (use code MAVERICK to save 10%). We turned around and sped back to the house. We headed back out on the road for the second and last time, thankfully. It could have been worse… I could have left my front race wheel somewhere (but that’s a whole other story that happened in Galveston last year!).
We made it to the park in plenty of time thanks to guidance of my awesome homestay by taking the back way into the park from the south and avoided the 3 mile line of cars coming from the north. We pulled into the parking lot and headed to transition to get set up with about 75 minutes before the start of the race.
It was a wetsuit swim this time. 67 degree water… none of the fudging the number to make it wetsuit legal like they probably did in Raleigh a few weeks ago. I wore my TYR CAT 5 Hurricane sleeveless wetsuit. I had a 10 minute warm up. The pro men line up and “drifted with the start line” out into the swim course. The gun went off and the race had started.
I was looking for Jordan Rapp to swim on his feet. I had done some research on the top guys and thought he was my best bet to stay with during the swim. I couldn’t tell which one he was since he had a cap, goggles, and wetsuit on. So I missed the front group due to getting stuck behind a group of 4 slower swimmers. I realized the group I was in wasn’t swimming as fast as I could on my own, so I came around from the back and worked my way to the front of the group. By this time, the lead pack of about 12 guys was too far ahead to try to catch up. I focused on good body position/rotation, strong kicking, and grabbing as much water as possible with each stroke. I exited the water about 3:30 faster than last year and dragged about 5 other guys out of the water at the same time. I used the wetsuit strippers since I’m really slow at taking my wetsuit off on my own. Ran to T1 and got ready for the bike.
Less than a mile into the bike, we cross some railroad tracks. A guy two places in front of me crossed the tracks and then about 20 meters past them, he flew off his bike. I had never seen anything like it… it was like something kicked his wheels out from underneath of him. His bike went flying to the left and he flew to the right. I swung wide to the left to avoid the bike which laid in the middle of the road and got back into the aerobars and started trying to catch some guys and settle into my goal wattage of 300-310 watts.
Miles 2-12 is where about 1000 feet of climbing occurs on the course. From the top of these hills, we had a net downhill to the finish line, with at least 3 more climbs that required my granny gear. I decided to cap my wattage at 340ish watts while climbing these hills, because I didn’t want to build up a bunch of lactic acid early on in the race and end up bonking later in the race. When I finally got to the top, I passed a few more guys and then was on my own for the rest of the ride.
By about the 45 mile mark, I got within about a ½ mile of 2 guys, one of them was the winner of Ironman Australia earlier this year, but couldn’t reel them in. I finished the bike course just under 300 watts (probably because I spun out my legs a couple times on some of the down hills instead of just coasting down a few steep decents). I looked at my data from last year, and I averaged 275 watts…so nearly 25 watt increase!! I have to take a minute to thank my coach, Brian Grasky, who has really stretched me in my training his year. I’m gonna take another minute to thank Rotor power meter and their AMAZING Qrings that help me smooth out my pedal stroke and produce more power with their elliptical chainrings. Of course, the Argon bike was stiff enough to handle the watts, the ENVE wheels were light for climbing and super areo on the flats and decents. My John Cobb V-Flow Plus saddle was amazingly comfortable was well (use MAVMIKE to save 5%).
I got off the the bike in 11th place. I was wondering how my legs would handle the run for two reasons… crazy amount of climbing (one hill 1 mile one long, two other hills about ½ mile long) and attempting to run fast after pushing some watts that were much more than I had done before in a 70.3 race. With the exception of running up the hills that were like running stairs, my legs felt good. I would start to get into a good rhythm and then hit another hill that ruined my groove.
When I could find that happy place, I was able to run some 5:50’s miles, but running a mile uphill took me about 7 minutes on the last lap. At the last turn, I saw the competition starting to gain ground on me from the last time we met there on the first lap. I figured I had about a 1/3 mile lead on them with 5K to go. No letting up now. I picked up the pace with what I had left and started to run out of steam in the last mile of the run and crossed the line just a few seconds over my goal time. I wanted to be under 4:10.
Over all, I was 10th male pro and 14 minutes faster than last year. No money… but I finished 1 minute behind Elliot Holtham (winner of IM Australia this year). I’m very happy with this result. I know that I still have lots of work to do to climb to the top, but I feel like I’m knocking on the door now. I think that I need to work on my swim the most. I have made big improvements already this year in the swim by swimming with one of the top 10 swim clubs in the nation, the Lakeside Seahawks, but I know I can get faster by working with them more. I need to cut off another couple minutes in the swim to be out on the bike with the top riders and pace off of them. I know that I can run just as fast or faster than most of them… so I’m close. Very close.
Now it’s time to recover and get ready for Muncie 70.3 in 3 weeks. Primal Sport Mud is going on my legs again tonight (use MAVERICKPRIMAL14 to save 40% on your first order).
Thanks to Maverick Multisport for putting together a great roster of sponsors. Thanks to Vibra Health Care for their support. Thanks to my wife that traveled with me in the car all the way from Louisville to Syracuse to cheer me on. Thanks to my family and friends that gave me words of encouragement the last 10 years when I first started racing triathlons. I’m extremely blessed by God to allow me to race and do what I love. It all would be impossible without Him.