Let It Stay in Vegas: 70.3 World Championship Race Report
I’ve come to admit that I don’t care much for Las Vegas. There used to be a time when going to this unusual city was a cheap getaway but not any more. For a short season they touted it as a family destination, uh nope; tried that. It was hardly family friendly as my daughter offered to shield my eyes from the billboard advertisements, raising her tiny hand saying, “Don’t look daddy, I’ll protect you!” Today, it’s high fashion mixed with super sensation. It’s a town that thrives on excess and lures you in through a wide entrance promising to shut the door behind you so no one can look in.
When the WTC moved the Ironman 70.3 World Championships from Clearwater FL to Las Vegas I was happy. I wasn’t willing to go to Florida for the race but Nevada? Yeah, I’d make that trip. So last year I took a qualifying slot and my race was less than desirable having crashed a month prior, getting a new bike only hours before we left for the race and knowing I was severely undertrained. So, this year was to be a year to redeem that poor showing.
When we arrived at the Marriott Grand Marquis we found ourself in the thick of the strip. Everything Vegas was within walking distance and we took advantage of that for a plethora of dining choices. Our first afternoon we went to the top of the building to their tiny pool where we found ourselves embarrassingly entertained by three, completely drunk, college guys. The funniest thing was watching this one guy try to put his flip-flops back on his feet. The endeavor took about 15 minutes to which he finally gave up and carried them smack, and I mean smack, into the wall in front of him.
When checking in to register and managing our time at the expo it was typically desert hot! Missing from the year before were desert thunderstorms and cloud cover. The forecast was for heat! We’ll leave it at that and pick up the action on race morning since most of the time prior was managing the typical race lead up and prep.
We left our room and headed off to Lake Las Vegas which took about 25 minutes from the strip. It had been apparent in just a year the area around Lake Las Vegas had deteriorated and the polish of this manmade oasis had worn considerably. So, different this year was a distinct parking plan for athletes and spectators as room was made on empty lots to organize the masses. However, this backed up the line of cars entering so I asked Joy just to drop me off and head back to the hotel and enjoy her morning and I’d see her in Henderson from T2 on. She quickly agreed and the walk into transition was fast and efficient. Also, different this year were no T1 bags. we were able to place everything on our bike and avoid a change tent! Tire good? check, nutrition good? check, tri top, HR monitor strap, helmet, glasses, race belt good? check! Okay… get in line.
Swim: By now, transition was closing and the waves were pretty much lined up. I was in the 50+ wave, a huge group going off at 6:45am as wave 4. I like being early in the wave lineup as you find yourself swimming through less slower swimmers. Unfortunately, the wave before us was 45+ women. When we got in the water it was warm! Warmer than last year. There were no clouds in the sky and it looked to be a hot one from the start! Expected temps – high 90s. The water was probably 83/84; very warm for swimming! I placed myself at the front, near the shore and as the horn signaled our start I had a smooth contact-free start. It wasn’t until about 200 yards or so things piled up. By the turn around we were already swimming through the ladies and that bunched things up a lot. Coming back you aim for the middle arch of the pedestrian crossover/building… When I got to the arch leaving a couple hundred meters to the finish the faster swimmers in the wave behind us started swimming by. When I exited I couldn’t tell the time as I forgot to look. I just ran around the exit back to transition feeling a little spent due to temperature or… the fact I’ve probably not recovered well yet from IMNYC just a month prior or… I dunno but it didn’t matter it was time to ride. Total swim time: 35:24 Ooh, that was slow!
Bike: You come out of transition by running your bike up this switch back trail then mount out on the road which turns to a mile and a half climb out to Lake Mead Parkway, you turn right go a couple miles and do a funky switch on a walk path to the other side of the road and head back and enter Lake Mead National Park. Here the road is a series of climbs and descents. Nothing is flat. The heat seems manageable but for some reason my rhythm never kicks in. I just stay steady. Up and down, up and down we go. The views are impressive and colorful. Occasionally a truck pulling a ski-boat goes by us. I try to remember the course from last year imagining where the turn around is but I’m way off. When we reach it there is a short fast downhill section then you just seem to climb and climb. Up until this point it’s been a pretty long stream of passing many of the ladies from the swim wave in front of us and occasionally getting passed by younger faster guys. But now the it’s pretty much everyone holding their positions getting back to the lake. Now out of the park theres about 10 miles to go into Henderson. I know this is a deceivingly slow section due to wind and false flats and the climb into Henderson. I look at my watch. oof, this is slow too. Making the turns into Henderson a bike slowly pulls up along my left. A voice says, “Tough day huh?” It’s one of the ladies I passed a lot earlier. I nod yes but I’m thinking, “Yeah, REALLY tough day if I’m getting passed by you now!” Knowing that I shouldn’t do this I push it a bit and get past her again not wanting to be “chicked!” But now rolling into T2 I can tell… it’s really HOT! Total Bike time: 2:53:57 Ugh… really slow again!
Run: This run starts out going downhill for a mile then up for 2 then back down making three loops. This year they added a little swing around an outdoor amphitheater which made a difficult run even more difficult. Also, changed was moving the lower section off the walk path completely into the street making for little if no shade. To say I felt like doodoo would be an understatement! My legs barley moved. I don’t know what was going on but all I could think is someone hit the slowmotion button. It was like running through molasses. No matter how hard I tried I just plugged along like an old choochoo… get the theme? Doodoo doing the choochoo! yeah, that was me. It didn’t take long and I was walking the aid station, walking around the amphitheater… oh golly, I’m pathetic. Somebody give that guy a cane! But wait… looking around it seemed like just about everyone was taking steps instead of strides. It seemed like a march into an inferno. On the final lap aid stations were running out of ice and the carnage was strewn everywhere. Running down Green Valley Ranch Rd the last time all I could think about is “It’s almost over!” I don’t think I have wanted to finish a race as badly as this on. Once across the finish line all I wanted to do was find Joy, grab my gear and leave! Total Run time: 2:10:57 Total Race time: 5:46:52 This is by far the longest it has ever taken me to finish a 70.3 race!
Post race: As I walked through the finish area the food tent was air-conditioned! Now I’m not so motivated to get out of there. I quickly found myself a plate of watermelon and potato chips with a coke and sat down and just let the cool air settle on me. I probably was in there for 15 min. but I was eager to leave. So, back out in the open air oven I finally find Joy and we grab the bike and gear and get in the car and leave thinking it may be a while before I return, I’m just not that happy about the day, my readiness, the city and with bigger concerns if I had done myself a huge disservice for being here and not getting ready for Kona. Time will tell as it did today! Driving away, I look at the outside temperature; it reads 105. As far as I’m concerned, the heat in Vegas can stay in Vegas!
- What is IF