Race Report – IM 70.3 Western Mass., 2023
This report comes from TriEndeavors athlete Sermet Alver.
Achieving the goal of competing at an Ironman 70.3 race was the culmination of nearly two years of focused training, exploration, and racing several short-distance triathlons, along with countless road-running races. My first triathlon was in May of 2022, and I prepared myself enough to know NOT to be the athlete wearing a wetsuit on the bike because they forgot their Tri suit. Race after race, I became more hooked on triathlon. I loved the complexities and challenges it presented, but more than anything loved to swim, bike, and run.
Last race of 2022, I met another athlete on the podium who received first place OA; his name was Scott, a triathlon veteran. He mentioned I should look at coaching and was explaining the difference it made to his training over the years. With a goal of 70.3 on the horizon, I researched options and connected with coach Stephen Redwood from TriEndeavors. We started working together in December 2022, a little over six months out of my goal race IM 70.3 Western Massachusetts. With my consistency in training and his extensive experience in endurance sports, I knew he would get me to the starting line in good shape.
The venue was a first of its kind. The inaugural Ironman 70.3 in Springfield, Massachusetts. A two-hour drive from Westchester, NY, and one of the closer Ironman events in the region, part of the reason I choose it. Arriving in Springfield the day before to pick up race materials and attend the expo allowed me time to take in the scale of operation of these Ironman events. The preparation and setup are top-notch. A lot of planning went into making this a successful weekend, and there’s excitement about it in the community. During bike check-in, I memorized and visualized where I racked my bike, and I was amazed at how tight the spaces were, which forced me to be efficient with setup. At local triathlons, you get more space than you need. After scoping out some of the swim and run courses. I returned to the hotel to meet my family and have dinner early.
There was a lot of uncertainty during race week with the air quality from the Canadian wildfires and the water quality in the Connecticut River. Still, I focused on what I could control, but the anxiety, nerves, and excitement started to kick in. I generally count on a good night’s rest 2-3 days before an event because I toss and turn the night before. However, I was not getting 8hrs, and my Whoop metrics were off, but I told myself not to look at that race morning. I mentally rehearsed and visualized the race, the transitions, and how I would feel in each discipline, reviewing my nutrition/race plan and how it would feel to cross the finish line!
I woke up race morning at 3 AM feeling mentally tired, but my body was well-rested and ready. I gathered my bags and headed out the door to set up my bike in transition before the 1.4-mile walk to the swim start. This walk allowed me to warm up my legs and reflect on the journey to get to the start line, which is always a HUGE win given life’s circumstances. As I queued in the swim corrals, I took everything in one last moment before the cannon started at 6 AM, which to my surprise, was the pocket-size version, different from Kona.
The swim gets underway with a point-to-point course. In Olympic and Sprint distance races, I go out hard the first several hundred yards, but for this race, I was off to an all-day leisurely pace knowing it would be a long day, focusing on form and sighting regularly. I kept a good line with the buoys to my left; you can see the bridges off in the distance with each sighting. Having several buoys helped segment the race, and before long, I approached the railroad bridge. Swimming underneath a bridge with a railcar going over your head is a unique sensory experience. With the river’s current, I passed memorial bridge and exited the water in 29 minutes to be met with large concrete steps to climb on the way to transition.
T1 was LONG, about .62 miles to bike mount. Other than a brief “Oh crap, where’s my bike” moment, which felt like an eternity, it was routine, and I was off to the bike leg.
Being a faster swimmer and the cycling portion being the weakest of the disciplines, you get past by strong cyclists, like Coco on Zwift and the Peloton of riders that follow. My effort felt at a conversational pace; I was producing consistent watts with some spikes in power on the inclines. Most of the 3% + climbs were in the first 30 miles. The course was technical, single loop with a lot of 90 degrees turns with rough patches along the way. The local support throughout the entire bike race was fantastic. People are cheering on and enjoying the IRONMAN Triathlon in their backyards. My bike goal was focused on nutrition and hydration, knowing it would pay dividends on the run!
T2 was .31 miles to run out, while long felt manageable. With a quick stop to the bathroom, I was off for the 13.1-mile run.
The first several miles felt good; my legs felt fresh, and the patience on the bike would pay off; I was in for a great run. My pace leveled out in the middle miles, trying to keep HR low for the effort. The course was two loops of the Riverfront Park; the elevation was relatively flat. At every aid station, I grabbed water or Gatorade and a cup of ice to place in the Tri suit. The ice was great relief with the rising temperatures and direct sun. With knee pain at mile 8.5, I used the ice to help alleviate some of the inflammation: it worked because I gradually picked up my pace for the last three miles. My last mile was the fastest; I knew I paced myself and paid attention to nutrition especially at the end of the race. The surge of adrenaline the final quarter mile and coming home very strong was the best feeling as I ran over the red-carpet finish line for my first 70.3 Ironman race.
With a finish time of 5:22:37, 29:05 Swim, 3:04:59, Bike, and 1:35:38 Run, and an overall place of 219/1,141, Stephen’s coaching helped me achieve this goal and improved my overall performance. I am satisfied with the results, and this race validated all the hard work that went into completing this accomplishment. 70.3 Western Massachusetts was the inaugural race, a first for me and the host city Springfield. A lot of two-a-day training & planning went into making this a success. I look forward to my next Ironman 70.3 race!