Liberty Long Course Triathlon Race Report

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My half iron distance tri was a blast. It was my first time on this course, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. All in all, it was a great day, but I did manage to make one veteran mistake and 3 rookie ones.

We set the alarm clock for around 4:15 this morning, but we had to hit the snooze button a couple of times to snuggle. We were out of bed soon enough, though, and while Steve loaded up the bikes and finished packing all of his stuff, I got our nutrition, wetsuits, and some of the other random stuff put into the car.

We got to transition around 6:15. It had opened at 5:30 but wasn't scheduled to close till 7:15, so I had asked that we not get there at the official crack of dawn. Being in transition too long just makes me nervous. We got our transition areas set up in between lots and lots of social time. We had so many friends doing this race. It was a blast, and for a few minutes, I forgot I was about to race for the next 6+ hours.

Steve and me in transition before the race

The Swim:
The long course athletes went out before the oly distance ones, and I was in wave 4, which was followed only by the older men. I was a little nervous for a few reasons. The first was the fact that I really have only swum twice since New Orleans 2 months ago, and I don't know if you can even count the 10 minute OWS in Nokomis on Thurs as an official swim. The second was that the water in MN has been FREEZING cold. We haven't had a lot of warm days in the last couple of weeks, and I was hoping I could keep myself from panicking. The plan was just to take it easy an keep a steady pace in the water. I did a great job sighting and never really got off course. I alternated between feeling like I was the only one out there and having a few run-ins with other swimmers. I got elbowed in the eye once and think I half assaulted another swimmer. The water felt GREAT, and though this definitely wasn't my fastest swim ever, it wasn't my slowest either. I was out of the water in 0:47. I ran up the small hill and officially hit the mat before T1 in 0:48:03.

T1: I peeled off my wetsuit, stuffed my nutrition and a few emergency bike supplies in my top, donned my sunglasses, helmet, and bike shorts, grabbed my bike, and I was out. I'm not sure what the official time read, but my watch says it took 3:27. I got out of T1 and had a really unsettling feeling that I was forgetting something. I went through the mental checklist and came to the realization that I was just paranoid.

The Bike: I was a little nervous for the bike because the race's website describes it as a very hilly, technical course. Like all of the disciplines for this race, I honestly haven't done a lot in the way of training. I did manage to squeeze in a really hilly 60 miler a week and a half ago after which my legs felt totally shredded. To my relief, the hills weren't too bad. Don't get me wrong, there were LOTS of them, and I sure loved my granny gear more times than I could count, but most of the downhills' momentum helped me get up the hills, and with the gorgeous weather, I CRUISED down those hills! The hilly course kept me engaged, and before I knew it, I was starting the second loop. I had gotten passed by everybody and their grandma starting the bike, which is pretty typical for me (especially since the short course athletes were doing the same loop and starting behind us). However, on the last loop, I felt really strong and managed to pass another dozen or so people. My legs felt great! I finished the hilly bike course in 3:22, a 16.6 average - nothing spectacular, but good for me. Rookie mistake #1: about halfway through the bike, I looked down and noticed that my chip was missing. I new it likely hadn't fallen off in the swim because I always pin the straps together (I lost my chip in the swim during my very first race). I was bummed for a second, but the timers had been doing a great job at recording our numbers at all of the important points, so I figured if nothing else, I could rely on that. My hunch was that it came off with my wetsuit in T1. I guess that naggy feeling that I was forgetting something coming out of T1 was for good reason!

Finishing up the hilly 56 mile bike

T2: I made the appropriate exchanges from my pockets, ripped off my bike shorts and shoes, grabbed my hat, and FOUND MY CHIP IN MY WETSUIT (well actually, Steve found it as he was in transition talking to me.

Stuffing all my food in my pockets and strapping my running shoes on!

I was out 2:18 but had obviously been a little distracted because a mile into the run, I realized I had forgotten my race number! We'll call this rookie mistake #2. I have such a routine in transition. Throw in another factor, and it all goes down the drain!

The Run: Just like all of the other legs of this race, I was a little unsure about the run. I had done an 11 miler 6 days earlier that was neither speedy nor painless. All I could think about for the first 1.5 miles was how bad I had to pee. We were running along lots of family occupied campgrounds, and the one bathroom I did see along the way was closed for cleaning. The teenagers doing the cleaning didn't seem very sympathetic toward this eyeball-floating triathlete, so I pressed on hoping to find some tall grass down the road. I found some tall grass in thick tree cover soon after and performed a modified move the leg of my tri shorts maneuver that prevented all of the out and back runners from seeing my very pale behind. It wasn't graceful, but I felt SO much better. I was cheering for all of the runners on their return trip, and the guy right behind me commented on my spirit. I told him it always makes me feel better. Staring at the ground for 13 miles just gets me feeling sorry for myself! He and I started talking, and as it turns out, he is training for his first Ironman in WI this year. Well, get me talking about IM and I don't shut up! We ended up running the next 12 miles together. Steve laughed when he saw us at the halfway point because he says I always manage to make a friend on the run.

Joe and me nearing the halfway turn around

Joe and me heading back - over halfway done!

We weren't fast, and between his hammy issues and my GI issues, we did have a few walk breaks, but the run was infinitely easier because I had a new friend to talk to. Rookie mistake #3 was not eating enough the day before. The food I did eat wasn't all that nutritious, and I didn't eat a very ample supper. Even though I was eating far more calories than I normally eat during a half, by mile 6 of the run, I knew I was in trouble. When I don't eat enough, I start to feel really nauseous, and that's when I know I really need to choke down more food. I ended up eating 3 gels, a pack of Sharkies, a cup of goldfish crackers, and a cup of Coke on the run. That's in addition to my calories on the bike. By the time I hit the finish line, my gut had totally revolted, and it took all my remaining energy not to barf. Given the heat and GI issues, I guess our run time wasn't too bad - 2:33:04

I was REALLY ready to be done, so I booked it in to the finish. Joe had to stay back to prevent his hammy from going crazy.

My total finish time for the day was 6:50:37 - my second slowest half time. I had a blast, though, and I will definitely do this race again. It's well-run, challenging, and beautiful. It's an early season race, but the competition is far from early season! Congrats to all of my old and new friends who had successful days out there, especially Jen, who medaled in her age group for her first Oly and Julia who took first in her AG for her first 70.3!

My veteran mistake: I'm losing fear of the distance. After 2 Ironmans, 10 marathons, and this being my 6th 70.3, I know I can bust out the distance regardless of the quality or quantity of training. I came to the obvious realization this week that the past couple of years have been super crazy, and I skimped on training where I needed to in order to keep up with the rest of my life. This summer, except for the porch remodel, work, and the usual commitments, I really should be able to make time for some quality training. I think deep down, I'm a little afraid that putting in the time won't really lead to a lot of gains in speed, and it's just so much easier to accept being slow when I know that I'm not fully trained to race. Does this even make sense?


Steve Stenzel

It WAS a pretty course. We should do it again! And good luck hitting the training harder for your marathon!!!

Jumper 2.0

I have biked it with the Mn Tri Club. I love that area and will have to consider it for next year. Glad you had a great race Pharmie!


It makes total sense. I have been training since last summer for SPRINT distances and get passed by people who just signed up becasue they lost a bar bet the night before. But, I love it and have fun and that's all that matters. (almost... or I wouldn't do speedwork)


great job! you looked super strong coming off the bike. im sorry we werent able to stick around to cheer you into the finish but we had a graduation party to get to. i look forward to racing with you in chisago. your THIRD 70.3 this year? STUD!


Congrats!! You looked great when you started the run! :)

And it was so great to finally meet you.

YAY for triathlons!


Man, 6:50? I strive to be your kind of "slow" :o)

Great pictures! I am a chatty runner too, It makes the miles go so much faster to be perky.

Great report!


Nice race report!


Great race report and congrats on another huge race finish! I'm kicking around the idea of a tri this summer, and reading stuff like this is really inspiring.


Yes, that makes total sense! I think everyone, whether they are triathletes or just runners get to a point when the distance no longer intimidates them.

Great work on your 70.3! I cannot even imagine!

(I've been a lurker for awhile now but thought I would comment.)


Congratulations on your race! I learned a lot by reading about the mistakes you made. I'm thinking about doing this race next year since it is right by my house and I do a lot of training there. I'm so glad that you liked it. BTW... you are not slow. I think your times are pretty impressive!


Great race Pharmie!!! You did awesome and I'm so glad that you had fun! And your race stats are impressive my dear - 2 IM, 6 70.3 and 10 marathons??? You are amazing!


Sarah, you and Steve both are a fountain of experience and I learn alot from reading your blogs. I dont know why i used fountain, but it sounded right:) It was hotter than we have had and I felt hot out there as well. And my chip NEARLY fell off as well. Those little straps they gave us were pretty chewed up:(
Thanks for chatting with me in T area and i hope you got your app back for the Cupcake.


Makes perfect sense - I realized this weekend I've completely lost the fear of sprint distance. I remember feeling sheer terror months in advance and forcing myself to train huge amounts for my first! Now I'm planning on doing 3 this summer on only 1-2 days a week of training because I know I can. But I'm less happy about that than I was when I was scared.

I smacked my head when you mentioned the whole Enelle + wetsuit = not breathing. Holy crap that's useful information, and totally how it went down for me! The freezing water and my general fear of returning to racing didn't help either. Not that I have a choice, I can't not wear the Enelle! But at least now I know what to expect.

Calyx Meredith

What a super picture of you two! Love the race report - I learn so much. It's never occurred to me to check for my chip mid-race. Great job and glad you enjoyed your race.


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