Maple Valley, Washington, is the home of one of Ironman’s newer 70.3 races. While I’m not doing the 70.3, I had decided this summer of 2023 was going to be a summer of doing ALL.THE.THINGS. And this race sounded good, so I signed up.
I want to be very clear about this – I did not approach this race like a ‘rust buster’ or a way to shake off cobwebs, but I certainly did not prepare for this race with the level of care and attention to detail that I normally do. And while it worked out just fine, the sheer ridiculousness of some of my choices was…let’s just say, don’t prepare for any race in this way!
First up: equipment. I picked up my triathlon bike from my sister’s garage a week prior to the race. It had been in there for six months and the chain was rusty – I was fortunate enough to find a mechanic that had the time AND a chain and was able to tune up the TT bike in just a few days. This is common triathlete maneuver and a bike mechanic’s biggest pet peeve. Take care of your equipment!
A part B is KNOWING your equipment! Fortunately with 6 years on this bike I feel very comfortable and confident, but maybe a little overly so because my only pre-race ride after six months away was in jeans and birkenstocks.
Next up: reviewing the course. I had glanced at course maps and assumed it would be straightforward. No way there’d be a bunch of rollers or steep climbs on course, right? WRONG. When maps don’t align in information, you should finish your review and do your due diligence and understand what’s going on! The bike course had 1,400′ of climbing – which is a decent amount over the course of an olympic.
Race day was beautiful, clear skies and pleasant temperatures. Another Tufts swim alum was racing, and we chatted pre-race to help the morning go by. I completely lost track of time though and missed any semblance of a warmup.
The swim in Lake Wilderness was beautiful, and the course was a nice rectangle – sighting on the way out featured a gorgeous view of Mt. Rainier. Unfortunately for me, I swam a little extra since I did not pay attention to the direction of the first turn buoy… but I ended up back on the feet of the girl I started with for the rest of the swim. (Swim time: 22:38)
The race featured a rolling start, with the olympic racers starting first and sprinters starting next. But, the whole race rolled in with only 2 seconds between starters! So I exited the swim in what I can only assume was the middle of the bell curve of the sprinters. I was in more traffic than I had ever seen! (T1 time: 0:54)
As I was riding through the sprint field, I just wanted to get out of traffic. It was so congested and the hills were not rolling, they were quite punchy! So I pushed the effort for the first 8 miles or so until the sprint course finally split off.
As I was able to settle in to a more reasonable pace on the much flatter, much friendlier back half of the course, I realized that my front brake was rubbing. This was solely due to user error on my part pulling my bike out of the car that morning. So the obvious solution was to just flip open the front brake and not use it the rest of the day. On a very hilly course. That I was very unfamiliar with.
Fortunately, there were no disasters, just questionable decision making by me! I had joked with a friend that I should just go set a new FTP during the race. Which I did. And I do not recommend doing. (Bike time: 1:32:06)
T2 was only memorable because my Tufts friend was already done with his sprint! He and his family waved and cheered and I just thought to myself, man I have to go run for an hour, ugh. (T2 time: 1:10)
I headed out on the run, assuming that the course was going to be a little bumpier than I had originally thought. I approached the first out-and-back and even though I recognized that it was a slight downhill, I saw that I was only a minute back from two women and figured I had a shot at reeling them in because I thought I’d be able to see them.
Turns out, I did not have a shot at that, as we ran uphill for the next two miles. At the next turn around, I got passed by a woman and saw another woman close behind and just thought to myself, oh no… and then a third woman close behind those two! My new goal was to hold off this third woman in the last 1.5 miles.
This last part of the run course featured heading down a forest staircase – ouch – and up an incredibly steep driveway at mile five! I did walk a bit of the extremely steep hill just for sanity’s sake.
I knew I was close to the park entrance and about 1/4 mile to go and everything started tightening up. I hadn’t seen that third woman, nor had I heard any cheers behind me, but as I made the right turn into the park I looked over my shoulder and she was very confidently closing the gap. I started to run as hard as I could manage. I could see flags marking the course at a right turn, but from far away, I misinterpreted what direction that turn was heading – it was away from the finish and into one last small loop! I got to the turn and proceeded to gag and puke a little, just in time for that chasing woman to pass me. I managed a small “good job” – what I was trying to get out was more of a “you earned it” or maybe “this is your fault” but “good job” is all she got!
At that point I just jogged it in. Turns out it was one of my better 10km runs? (Run time: 54:27)
I accomplished my goals of work hard, puke, and have fun, though I will say there are better ways to do that! Ended the day 3rd AG and 7th OA female, so not too bad all things considered. I didn’t take ANY pictures, and there were no photographers at the event! So I have no photos 🙁