Ironman 70.3 Pocono Mountains Race Report

I originally signed up for the inaugural Pocono Mountains 70.3 because it was the only 70.3 race that fit into my schedule that would also give me points towards the 70.3 World Championships for 2012. I had ignorantly thought, “Hey, Pennsylvania at the beginning of October, it’s going to be warm weather I’m sure!”
Well, I was wrong. Wrong doesn’t even begin to describe it. See, if I had done some research, I would’ve found out (BEFORE signing up) that there has been record rainfall all summer, and that the temperatures CAN be okay, but more often than not it is cooler. As the date approached to leave, I was feeling an unbelievable amount of confidence in myself, as my training had been going spectacular!  My swim was FINALLY coming together, I was having some amazing bike sessions, and I was performing brick and track workouts at a level beyond what I had ever been capable of before.  “Yes,” I thought, “this will be the race where it all comes together.” Then I started looking at the weather forecasts. They weren’t pretty. In fact, comparing it to Vancouver weather, it STILL wasn’t pretty (on race morning, at 4am (that’s 1am Vancouver time,) the temperature was 2 degrees colder in the Poconos than in Van.) This started to make me nervous, as I have a knack for performing better in the warmer weather. Wondering what I was getting myself into, I stayed positive (as I’m known to be, regardless of what’s happening around me,) and knew I would still pull something great together. Arriving the Wednesday before the race, I was greeted by my first of two homestays, Craig and Erica Sheckler. They are the owners and head coaches of the Endurance Multisport Triathlon Club, based out of the Emmaus/Pocono area of Pennsylvania. They were an outstanding pair, great hosts and super friendly. I stayed with them the first and last night of my trip, and the few nights between I stayed with Matt Wojaczyk, a club member. Another fantastic host, he showed me the area and the race course, as well as volunteered on race day.
TT style race start
The night before the race, as I’ve become accustomed to, I didn’t sleep a wink. I didn’t even think much about the race, but just couldn’t sleep. We had found out the day before that the swim had been cancelled, as the Deleware Water Gap (the river we were to swim in,) was 8-9 feet above normal levels, making a normally flaccid running river into a raging force of muddy brown hell. It was insane. If we had swam, they would’ve needed catch nets at the end or we would have been goners!! (So much for my swim finally coming together.) Getting to T1, it was damn cold that morning. I was a little happy there was no swim, as it usually DOESN’T put me at the front of the race, and I was fairly sure I would’ve become hypothermic if I had swam in the water. The skies started to open up on us as we lined up to start, Time Trial style, at the entrance of T1. I was feeling good, and was the third pro male to go. They let us go 30 seconds apart (the age groupers went  2-3 seconds apart.) It was hard hard hard (as Coach Bjoern would say,) right from the start. The hills started almost immediately, with all sorts of technical turns and rollers (which, if it had been a bit drier out, would have been a good course for me.) Fully layered up to try and stay warm, I rode hard. A few strong riders eventually went by me, but I maintained contact with a bunch of them. Time seemed to just fly by, and I was riding so well. Then, 45 miles in, my front tire went flat. “Crap,” I thought, “why now?” Into action I went, pulling over and ripping my Hutchinson tire sealant off, and started fighting to get the small nipple adapters screwed on. It was tough, and I was having a hard time working my frozen fingers. It took many tries to get the adapters all screwed on, and by the time I was ready to roll again, it had felt like 20mins had passed by. “Back in the game I thought,” as I started to roll.
Hard at work on the bike
Lovely bike riding weather
And yet again, it was not meant to be. As foam started flying out of the original hole, just spraying all over the bike, the road, and all up-and-down my front, I pulled off again and tried to see if there was glass or something still stuck in the tire. **Learning experience: Pit-Stop does NOT work on clinchers!!** Nothing in the tire, with foam still shooting everywhere, I just thought I’d keep going, at least until the tire went flat. Well, lucky me, the tire stopped deflating with about 20-30lbs of air in it, just enough to keep riding on, but not enough that I could really push hard AT ALL. See, the elevation profile is all sorts of rollers and climbs, culminating to the 45mile mark, where it is mostly technical downhill the rest of the way. Suffice to say, my rear brake saw a lot of action the final 10miles, as I was in no hurry to crash my BRAND NEW Cervelo P3C.
 Into T2, I was a bit unmotivated to run, but throwing my run gear on, (in what felt like an absurdly large amount of time, ended up actually being pretty quick,) I was off onto the run course. I figured I would run my race, just focusing on form and nutrition, as there was no chance for me to place well. Alone with my thoughts (and the cheering of the aid station attendees,) I trucked myself all the way to final big climb to the turn-around. The course was very hilly, and extremely challenging, with a lot of rollers and steep inclines. Just before the turn-around, I realized that there was a few guys not so far ahead of me.
Erica, Jonna, and other Endurance Multisport members
Game on. I figured with nothing left to lose, I started to open up the throttle and let’er rip!! After a few miles, another pro was in sight, and that was it. Tossing my gel and salt-tablet flasks, I kicked it up another gear, and putting a target on his back I started to really put a dent in his lead. I mean, I started to give it everything I had, and with about 1.2miles to go, I passed through the last aid station (with my competitor only 10 yards ahead.) Two things I forgot to mention:
A.      The entire run course is pretty much an out-and-back;
Craig with long pink hair!
B.      Craig and Erica were manning the first/last aid station with their Triathlon club members, all of them outlandishly dressed up in all manners of pink outfits (I especially liked Craigs long pink hair.)
Finishing strong
Before the race, Erica told me she was a REALLY loud yeller, and I said I’d hold her to that. She came through, and the cheers and yells to “RUN FASTER, HE’S RIGHT THERE!!!!” were like throwing jet-fuel on the fire, and I started to kick. I don’t know how fast I ran that last mile, but dammit if I almost didn’t set a PB!!! I kicked past that guy and just ran with a blinding sprint, I have no idea where it came from. I put something like 30-40 seconds on him by the finish, and was elated that I finished so strong. 11th pro overall, not what I was expecting, but given the circumstances, I was happy with my performance (and learned a lot from the race.) Post race festivities included some much deserved beers, and my favourite pub-food of all-time, yam fries!! I sat down for dinner at a local Irish Pub with Craig, Erica, Matt and a delightfully good-looking (and talented,) up-and-coming elite triathlete, Jonna. Splurging on all things delicious, it was a fine way to end the evening.
Even though the conditions were crappy, and I had one helluva flat tire scenario, I’m glad I went down to Pennsylvania. I took a lot of important learning lessons away from the race, and made a bunch of awesome new friends. I’ll be taking all the lessons learned and putting everything into my last race of the season, Miami 70.3, on October 30th. I feel like my fitness is far better than it has ever been, and I have a new level of confidence going in to the race. Most people have long since finished their race season, but I hope everyone is out and enjoying the last bit of warmth and nice weather we’re enjoying in the Lower Mainland.
Safe and happy training everyone!!

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